My wife and I had lunch recently at Pho Tan in Lakeland. Only later did I realize that the restaurant is located very close to Holloway Park, which would have been a fun place to explore before our lunch. We’ll be going back for a visit. The lesson is to check the map before you go someplace new, you never know when you might get to combine multiple experiences into one trip.
Of course, our reviews are always based on our one-time experience, but in this case I have no past experience with Vietnamese food for comparison. That’s not good or bad, just something that seemed worth pointing out. Pho Tan is very unassuming, with a plain exterior and located in a semi-industrial area of Lakeland.
The interior is well-kept and equally unassuming, and it is a bit larger than I expected from photographs I saw online. I’m guessing they do most of their business during the week – we were there on a Saturday and no other customers came in while we were there. Our server was pleasant and helpful in answering questions about the menu. Each table was “pre-loaded” with condiments, chopsticks, and soup spoons.
My wife had regular iced tea to drink but Pho Tan offers Thai iced tea so I enjoyed that. I’ve had some Thai iced teas that tasted a little bitter, but this was quite good.
We started off our meal with a fried tofu appetizer. This was my first experience with fried tofu. I liked it very much. A bit crispy on the outside but soft inside. Tofu is made of bean curd but to me the texture is reminiscent of egg or quiche. We dipped ours in a little soy sauce. A good introduction to tofu for those who have never had it.
For her main course, my wife ordered Hủ Tiếu with rice noodles (egg noodles were an option), shrimp, fish, squid, and pork. Hủ Tiếu is a soup from China and southeast Asia that’s made with pork bone broth. It’s not really clear in the photo that there was a generous quantity of rice noodles in the bottom of the bowl, along with plentiful other ingredients, including bok choy, scallions, and cilantro. She felt the pork used had a little too much fat, but otherwise everything was good. All the ingredients seemed fresh.
I ordered Hủ Tiếu with rice noodles, six pork wontons, and roasted red pork. The wontons were outstanding, very tender, and my favorite part of the meal. I confess, I had to look up red pork, thinking it might be a specific cut of pork. Apparently the color is just achieved with various spices and condiments – one recipe used soy sauce and red wine, another used actual red food coloring. Like my wife’s dish, this had a generous amount of rice noodles, bok choy, scallions, and cilantro. The pork slices were tender. There were plenty of smaller chunks of pork mixed in, also. In the photo above you can see the separate plate of sprouts, lime sections, and peppers we were given to share. The lime especially added a nice additional flavor to the dish.
We had plenty of food for two people and even a little leftover to take home. With tip, our total was $37. So a little pricier than our usual lunch but a nice introduction to Vietnamese cooking, cheerful service, fresh ingredients, hearty food, and a Thai ice tea. Pho Tan is on South Combee Road at Ellis Avenue in Lakeland, just north of Bartow Road. Enjoy!