Tuesday's lunch was a bowl of light and fragrant beef noodle soup at Pho Ao Sen 2 in Newark. I chose the option with everything plus beef meatballs. For 30¢ extra, the rare steak was served on the side instead of steeping in the bowl.
I was impressed. The garnishes were sparkling fresh. I was happy to see culantro (sawtooth herb) in addition to the sprigs of basil. The bean sprouts were picked of the root threads. I used the quartered lime in my ice water. On the soup, the onions, scallions, and cilantro were freshly sliced, using the barest tender white and yellow parts of the scallion.
The meats were pristine - thinly shaved, chewy book tripe, toothsome lengths of tendon, well-done and still tender steak, and awesome fatty brisket with a near crunchy line of gristly fascia. The freshly cut rare steak retained all its juices. The well-seasoned meatballs had a less rubbery and more ground meat-like texture with a healthy dose of white pepper. This might be the best all-round quality in the meats I've seen with ideal textures in all. Neither the tendon or brisket were highly spiced or anise-y, just the essential beefiness shining through.
Noodles were just right, a loose web that untangled easily with good bite still. The lighter style broth was good but had a slightly cloying MSG-like sweetness in the finish. Otherwise, this would be just about perfect. Even so, I'd have to put this in the top echelons of local pho circles.