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For me, the words “comfort food” typically evoke the nostalgic dishes of my childhood: my grandfather’s linguine with clams, my father’s cheddar grits, my mother’s pistachio cookies. But after a recent visit to Pho Le on South Federal Boulevard, I’ve added the eatery’s sumptuous oxtail pho to my list of staples.
Pho Le is a relaxed spot: Most of the patrons dine solo with their heads bowed as they slurp from wide bowls. The menu offers an array of pho combinations as well as rarities like htiu mì nam vang, a pork soup with two types of noodles, quail eggs, and sliced pig heart. On our server’s recommendation, I chose the oxtail pho, otherwise known as ph uôi bò.
Though Vietnamese soup didn’t play a role in my formative years or my family history, there are few dishes more universally soul-warming than a large, steaming bowl of al dente rice noodles and nourishing broth—especially when the latter is as richly spiced and profoundly flavorful as Pho Le’s.
The aromatic stock was the color of gingerbread and similarly perfumed with star anise, cinnamon, and cloves but was backed with notes of fish sauce and charred onion. Though oxtail can be gelatinous and tough, Pho Le’s was meltingly tender with a pleasing beefiness.
Meanwhile, my companion adored her mì chay, a vegetarian soup garnished with crispy tofu skin.
Once we had our fill, we paid the tab at the counter and left, bellies full and warm, knowing we’d be back the next time a comfort-food craving struck. 1195 S. Federal Blvd., 303-935-6264
Oxtail pho $7.50
Vegetarian soup with egg noodle, tofu, and vegetables $9.15
Rice vermicelli with grilled shrimp and crispy pork rolls $9.50
Pork soup $9.50
Salty soda lemonade $3.50