Pho Cali, a steady stand by in downtown Sarasota.
With a significant number of downtown Sarasota restaurants, choosing a place to dine is no simple matter. What type of cuisine? What style of restaurant? What about price range? You get the idea. There are many factors to consider. Sometimes you just want a simple, flavor filled meal, in a casual setting, at a reasonable price. For me, that choice is simple, Pho Cali.
Upon entering Pho Cali one is immediately struck by the “hustle bustle” of the seemingly small number of staff. Tables situated close together, all filled with diners; people waiting in a small area while the glass topped tables are quickly cleaned and new diners take their place. After a short wait, we were seated and immediately immersed in the details of an extensive menu. Water glasses were quickly filled and our drink order promptly taken. Upon presenting our drinks the waiter was ready for our order. The menu is extensive offering a wide range of options.
For our meals we chose the following:
Fresh Spring Roll: Shrimp and pork, 2 rolls with shredded lettuce, mint, bean sprouts, and vermicelli wrapped in delicate rice paper sheets and served with peanut sauce. $4.95
One of my favorites, fresh and crispy, a simple presentation which tastes like Spring!
House Special Appetizer: Combination of 2 egg rolls, 2 spring rolls, and 4 crispy shrimp rolls. Served with house sauce and peanut sauce. $11.50
The perfect plate for sampling and sharing. Tasty dipping sauces.
Pho Ga: Pho beef or chicken broth with sliced white meat chicken, topped with scallions, onions and cilantro. Served with bean sprouts, fresh basil, lime and jalapeno peppers on the side. $9.50
Value, value, value, lots of soup, noodles and big chunks of moist chicken, broth was flavorful, chicken tender, and the bean sprouts added a nice fresh crispiness.
Combination Stir Fry: Combination of beef, white meat chicken and shrimp. Stir fried with mixed vegetables broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, carrots, bok choy and onion. $11.50
A nice mix of flavors, colors, and textures. Tender and crunchy, a great dish for sharing.
Chicken Pad Thai: Thai style stir fried rice noodles with eggs, bean sprouts, scallions, and crushed peanuts. $12.50
Generous portion. Chicken is tender. We added a little sriracha which took it up a notch.
Special Combo Fried Rice: Chicken, pork and shrimp. $10.95
Chock full of ingredients! Nice mixture of flavors. Grilled slightly smoky flavor. Meat is slightly dry. Generous portion.
Vegetarian Vietnamese Pancake: Pan-fried Vietnamese crepes stuffed with tofu, vegetables, and bean sprouts. Served with cucumbers, lettuce and house sauce. $8.95
Generous portion, crisp “latke”-like outside, crunchy, filling was fresh, vegetables were tender but firm. Crisp, chilled veggies on the plate.
Fine Vermicelli with Choice of Grilled Pork, Beef or Chicken: Steamed ultra-fine vermicelli served with lettuce, mint, cucumber, roasted peanuts and house sauce. $12.95
We chose grilled beef. Thinly sliced, tenderly grilled with Asian spices of soy, scallions and peanuts with extremely thin vermicelli (I never saw vermicelli this thin) pancake flat.
Roasted Duck: A half roasted duck served with steamed vegetables, steamed rice and duck sauce. $18.95
The duck was moist, tender, and cleaved into small pieces, the veggies were colorful and steamed to crispy perfection. Perhaps the best valued duck dish in Sarasota.
Pork in a Clay Pot: Slew simmered pepper – corned Pork in a Clay Pot. Served with steamed rice and Vietnamese pickles. $11.95
Tender, spicy with pronounced pepper flavor. Nice rich sauce.
The wait staffs are quick, attentive, and very efficient. Even though there was a short amount of time from our seating, to placing our order, to the delivery of our food and drinks, it was adequate and we did not feel rushed in any way. This was efficiency in action!
Pho Cali offers a small but adequate selection of beer, wine, and soft drinks.
Since Pho Cali has an extensive menu of reasonably priced Vietnamese food, coupled with a quick and efficient kitchen and wait staff, it is the perfect place to go when you are not quite sure what you want to eat and short on time. Pho Cali, Asian comfort food on Main Street.
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