Love Letter: Pho Saigon’s Pho

pho

Today I had a really bad day at work. I won’t go into it but suffice to say that if I told you about it you would probably say, “Damn, girl!” So what was my thought when I crossed back over the Causeway? What could soothe my frazzled nerves? A bowl of pho from Pho Saigon.

I’ve been thinking about their pho because the News and Review had an excellent cover story by Jonathan Mendick about pho last week. The article had background information about the preparation of pho, and it also had the author’s ranking of the top ten bowls. But wait, where is Pho Saigon on this list? Nowhere to be found. I won’t dispute any of the rest of the list – although I could. I’ll just tell you why I think Pho Saigon’s is the best.

The broth has a heavy star anise component, which might not be a plus for everyone, but is for me. There’s a lighter hand with the white onion than with the scallion. You can taste the cilantro in the broth, too. The rare steak is pretty much the same as most rare steak. Maybe I am missing some variation there. I do like when they manage to pile it on top so that it stays pink, so that’s a minus for Saigon.

The noodles are springy and distinct – no clumps or underdone noodles.

tendon

The tendon really puts it over the top. No one else can approach the tendon at Saigon. It’s thick-sliced and gummy with a mild flavor. Usually tendon is too rubbery, with the occasional piece that has an overpowering barnyard flavor. ¬†It may not look that appetizing in the picture above (in fact, is it just me or does it look obscene?), but if you like tendon, you will like Pho Saigon’s tendon. Tendon is a true acquired taste for me rather than one of those foodie challenge-type foods that I order once or twice but not on the regular (like cow penis – but that’s another story).

Confession: I don’t branch out much on pho. I should, but every time I want it I just go to Saigon. ¬†Mendick ranked the relatively new Pho Aroma as #5. My husband recently had pho there and seconded Mendick’s assertion that the broth has a deep flavor. I am eager to try it out. For tonight, my bowl of pho made me feel at least a little bit better. And I had to smile when the schmaltzy piano muzak station that they always play had a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi”. [Pho Saigon Restaurant, 5304 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA – 916-457-5580]

 

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