Whether consciously or not, there are a few specific signs we look for when approaching a pho shop. Among these: a B grade from the health department, and a waitstaff with limited English are often the first signals of the bounty of powerfully delicious, sweat-inducing, MSG-filled noodle soup that awaits. If only we can decode the menu.

When walking into Paddy Rice, a new pho shop on Melrose, there is no question that you are not in one of these pho shops. Glass chandeliers hang from the vaulted ceiling, above two rows of small, boxy, custom made tables that fold into each other like Swedish-designed Tetris pieces when vacant — which, according to manager William Shin, has been a fairly rare occurance in the few days since they soft-opened. “As soon as we opened the doors people started showing up,” said Shin, still surprised. “We didn't even do any advertising!”

Paddy Rice is the brainchild of owner Kevin Kang. An architect and interior designer by profession, Kang designed a number of restaurants before opening a few small food shops of his own. “But Paddy Rice,” Shin explained, “is Kevin's baby.” Kang designed both the interior and the menu with the intention of providing more of a dining experience than the traditional pho shop. “He didn't want it to have that fast food feel.” Thus, the chandeliers, the menu consisting of more mild-flavored pho, spring rolls, and banh hoi, and the LCD screen televisions that line one of the restaurant walls.

The TVs, which stream without sound, are mostly for decoration, Shin said. But they want to start showing Lakers games, maybe World Cup games too, like a cool alternative to a sports bar. Even though Paddy Rice doesn't serve alcohol, with enough sriracha, you'd be surprised how phucked up you can get on a bowl of pho.

Paddy Rice: 6909 Melrose Ave., Mid-City; (323) 931-9663.

Credit: E. Courtland

Credit: E. Courtland

LA Weekly