Written by: Amber Tompkins, Food Editor | Photography by: Chris Redd, Chief Photographer
Pho Kim Long, an eatery specializing in Vietnamese cuisine, is winning over Ocala locals and travelers alike with their affordable and authentic fare. And while many patrons will admit to stopping in because the name caught their attention, Pho Kim Long’s regulars will tell you they come for the food, which is “always consistent, hot and good quality.” It’s not unusual for the establishment to have repeat customers throughout the week- a good problem to have in the restaurant business. Because it is important to the owner for customers to be able to enjoy delicious Vietnamese food at their convenience, a side door leading to a take-out counter is easily accessible from the parking lot. The hours of the establishment are 11AM – 10PM Monday through Saturday and 12PM – 9PM on Sundays.
Upon entering the restaurant, the aroma of simmering stock and fresh vegetables greets your senses. When ordering at PKL, expect to get a table full of accoutrement to accompany your dish(es). Fish sauce, Vietnamese sauce, Sweet Chili sauce, Peanut sauce, etc. They’re all delicious but if you need guidance in what to do with each sauce, the staff at PKL is very accommodating and helpful. The restaurant’s most popular menu item is, of course, Pho which is served with a beautiful full plate of fresh vegetables to marry into the soup if you choose; onions, cilantro, green onions, bean sprouts, thick jalapeño slices, lime, cilantro and Vietnamese basil. This Vietnamese favorite is made up of flat rice noodles served in beef broth with your choice of meats. Options range from meatball, steak and brisket to shrimp, scallops and imitation crab.
Vermicelli bowls are another fan favorite at PKL. These bowls are prepared with thin rice noodles and served with a bed of shredded lettuce, mint, cilantro, bean sprouts, marinated julienne radishes and carrots, crushed dry roasted peanuts and fried onions. It is recommended that Vermicelli bowls be served cool but the restaurant owner says they can always warm them if you prefer. “Americans like it hot. Asians like it cold,” the owner explained, referring to the Vermicelli bowls they offer. But no matter the temperature, these bowls are best with fish sauce poured on top. At first sniff, the fish sauce has notes of vinegar, but do not be misled- the flavor is surprisingly sweet. This sauce is also a great addition to white rice.
Besides Pho, the restaurant serves up appetizers, specialty dishes, Vermicelli bowls, broken rice platters, fried rice, clear noodle soup, Vietnamese sandwiches and Boba drinks. Their most popular appetizers are the light and crispy fried egg rolls which have a bit of spice and are best when dipped in the sweet chili sauce, and the spring rolls which are wrapped in delicate rice paper come with a peanut sauce for dipping.
This may or may not come as a surprise to those who find humor in the restaurant’s name but when asked how he came up with “Pho Kim Long”, Hien Quang Lam, owner and operator explained, “Pho is the food we serve, Kim is my wife and Long is my boy.” Not exactly the answer that most people have in mind when asking that question. But nonetheless, endearing. Hien and his wife have been married over 16 years. PKL opened their doors in June of 2015 and they have had a “pretty steady flow of traffic ever since.” If you haven’t already, give Pho Kim Long a try, it is sure to please your cultural palette and leave you wanting more.