Having given up on the Vietnamese pho restaurants on the westside, I made my first trip up to Pho So 1 in Van Nuys tonight. It's located next to the 99 Ranch market and across the street from Pho 999, which is good but the bad service keeps me away.
Once I walked in, I was immediately swimming in the smell of fragrant pho broth. The menu has standard Vietnamese fare with about 140 choices, but really it's 3 main categories: Pho or bun or rice.
I got the #1 pho with rare beef, brisket, flank, tendon and tripe. The food arrived 3 minutes after ordering and I was overcome by the intense aroma of star anise. I was initially worried that the balance might be off, but on taking the first sip of the unadulterated broth, I was in pho heaven. This is some seriously good stuff!
The broth: The anise flavor is strong, but still allows the deep complexity of the meaty broth to come through. Usually I add some of the rooster chili sauce, but decided against it to preserve the wonderful balance of the broth. Another reason it's good is due to the extra fat content. My Vietnamese companion stated that in Vietnam, they give you extra fat on the side to make the pho luxurious.
The meat: The steak was nice, rare and tender. The brisket I could have done without. The flank had a good amout of fat still attached and was flavorful and meltingly tender. The tripe was cut thin and also tender. The tendon was the best; pure gelatinous protein punch. Melts in your mouth, not in your bowl. Next time I would opt for a bowl of just the tendon and rare beef.
The noodles were good, but not great. The accompanying basil was not pungent enough for me.
But really, I'm not complaining. My friend said the the pho was better than at many places in competitive Little Saigon.
I think restaurants in Los Angeles should be rated based on how long one should be willing to drive for the food. I can deal with the 12 mile drive to Pho So 1 in no traffic. Alright, maybe even during rush hour one way.
I'm still full.
Pho So 1
6450 Sepulveda Blvd [at Victory Blvd]
Van Nuys, CA 91411