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Pho Lee: So pho, so good for this Greenwood Village restaurant

See also: A closer look at Pho Lee

Pho Lee: So pho, so good for this Greenwood Village restaurant
Mark Manger
It’s a wrap: Vietnamese egg rolls at Pho Lee. See also: A closer look at Pho Lee

Avocados used to be in the same class as pomegranates, hard to find in small grocery stores and displayed with growers' signs for how to slice and use them. These days, though, avocados are everywhere: forming beds for scrambled eggs, lining bruschetta, mashed with garlic, lime and cilantro in the ever-popular guacamole. Some 79 million pounds of the bumpy, greenish-black Hass ovals were consumed on Super Bowl Sunday alone, up from 8 million pounds in 2000. So what is it about the thought of avocados as dessert that turns people off?

See also: A closer look at Pho Lee

That's a question I've pondered ever since lunch with friends at Pho Lee, a recent entrant in a pho scene that's grown as crowded as a bowl of the meat-, sprout- and noodle-packed Vietnamese soup. I might as well have been asking vegans to share blood sausage, so vigorous were my lunchmates' "No, thank you"s when I extended a taste of my slushy, not-too-sweet avocado boba smoothie. Pho Lee isn't the first spot to put green, buttery avocados into a blender with ice, milk and condensed milk, nor is it the first to serve the resulting drink-cum-dessert with gummy tapioca pearls in a glass with whipped cream, a domed lid and an extra-wide straw. Boba smoothies have been around for years, and the fresh-avocado variety, along with dozens of powder-based blends in exotic flavors such as passion fruit and lychee, can be found up and down Federal Boulevard.

See also: A closer look at Pho Lee
Mark Manger
See also: A closer look at Pho Lee
Mark Manger

Location Info

Map

Pho Lee

6860 S. Clinton St., Unit C
Greenwood Village, CO 80112

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Southeast Denver Suburbs

Details

Pho Lee
Avocado smoothie $3.75
Stuffed chicken wings $14.95
Vietnamese egg rolls $5.25
Pho, medium $6.75
Lemongrass sauté, rice plate $7.95
Coconut curry rice plate $7.95
Drunken noodles $7.95
Combination plate $8.50
Grilled beef bowl $7.25
6860 South Clinton Street, Unit C, Greenwood Village
303-790-7107
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

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But the boba marketing council, if there is one, hasn't done as heroic a job at promoting this kind of smoothie as the Hass Avocado Board has its namesake (though apparently there's more work to do in the sweet department); hence the skepticism. Too bad for my friends. Like roasted cucumbers, which defy common cooking sense but nonetheless taste delightful, avocados whip up into a cold, creamy drink as irresistible as any Nutella-spiked milkshake.

The only glitch was timing. Despite the surprisingly busy lunch crowd — surprising only because of Pho Lee's location, which is buried at the heart of a convoluted strip mall, with no street visibility — the smoothie and my pho appeared together, mere minutes after I'd ordered them. And both were divas, threatening to storm off and take their charms elsewhere unless given full attention. Look at me! demanded the pho, launching into a dance of nuanced textures — the chewiness of raw beef, the snap of bean sprouts, the splash of hot broth, the squish of long rice noodles — so alluring it nearly made me forget the drink. Then the smoothie elbowed in, flaunting a delicate wisp of avocado flavor you'd hardly recognize from all those savory preparations. What to do? Let the soup cool, or the smoothie melt? Either way, one would be past its prime. After a few satisfying slurps, I pushed the soup aside; pho, I reasoned, would hold up better as a leftover than a melted, re-frozen, eventually thawed-out smoothie. And as I spooned up the sweet, delicious drink — slowly, because all those boba took a while to consume — I was reminded that it's fun to do dessert first every now and then.

With glass tops snug against cream tablecloths, red-and-ivory walls and an assortment of potted plants, Pho Lee resembles any number of Asian restaurants peddling pad Thai, lo mein and General Tso's chicken. The menu feels familiar, too, but for a different reason: Dung Anh Le, who launched Pho Lee early this winter with his wife, Phuong Nguyen, is the brother of Aaron Le. The latter owns Pho 95, a local pho temple if ever there was one, and Dung Le worked there for years. Overseeing this kitchen is Dung's mother-in-law, Quyen Nguyen, who spent nearly two decades at Pho Fusion and T-Wa Inn, Denver's oldest Vietnamese restaurant.

As at his brother's restaurant, it is pho that pulls most people through the door at Pho Lee, a fact easily verified by the deep bowls and picked-over plates of condiments at every table. Like its American cousin, chicken noodle soup, pho pleases everyone, from little girls twirling in the aisles (there's a dance shop next door) to co-workers getting a break from the office. In part, this is because the dish is utterly customizable. Aside from the noodles, which are always rice, and the broth, which is beef unless you order the vegetarian option, the dish is yours to tweak, with a list of 23 protein combinations (tendon, tripe, well-done brisket, etc.) and an array of fresh, spicy and crunchy toppings to either heap on or leave out. I like them all: fresh-squeezed limes, jalapeños, bean sprouts, Thai basil and little-known culantro torn from glistening stems. Don't be afraid to reach for the bottles of sweet hoisin and fiery sriracha to craft a dipping sauce for whatever meat you've chosen, or to squirt directly into the bowl, as one server told me he likes to do, "if the broth is not enough for you." And it may not be: The broth is pale in both color and flavor, perhaps because someone took a lighter hand with the ginger, cinnamon and star anise commonly added to the pot.

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2 comments
dano323
dano323

Who cares? This is garbage after 2 times.....Buy something yumy, not this sustainable junk....If I have to die, I won't die here...Punk City Junk.

Mary Gould
Mary Gould

A few more these of restaurants on south federal. . .

 
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