I had an awesome bowl of pho at Pho Vi Hoa on El Camino near San Antonio in Los Altos. It surprised me because I've had pho there at least 4 or 5 times before and it always seemed good but nothing to write home about. As in the past the initial taste of the broth was at best average, but once the meat ingredients mixed in and the broth thickened the flavor was excellent. The meat ingredients (rare beef, brisket, flank and tendon) were high quality and came in very generous amounts. The juicy, flavorful meat was nice and slippery (from the fat I guess). Even though the steak slices were well cooked by the time I got it and I missed out on the fresh red bloodiness that is often my favorite part of a pho experience, it was one of the best bowls I've had in a long time.
Maybe in the rush to get food out of the kitchen (the place was packed) the chef threw in more meat than usual, but the quality was also excellent. The basil, sprouts and pepper slices were ample and fresh. It probably helped that I ordered a version with lots of ingredients (item P-13 without the tripe). Maybe the fact you can't get a decent glass of lemonade here biased my prior impressions.
I always order tendon in my pho and assumed that's what thickens the broth as you eat it. Does this happen when you don't include tendon? Maybe it's dissolving fat from the meats?
Pho Vi Hoa
4546 El Camino Real