Pho Ga Nha replaced my favorite Vietnamese restaurant over a year ago, much to my dismay. Fortunately, Banh Cuon Phu Ho Tay has re-opened in recent months in a smaller location up the street - more on that another time. So this week I decided to try the newcomer. I'm glad I did, as I recognized Pho Ga Nha's owner as the same who owns PCPHT. But the more valuable connection is that he used to operate Pho Ga An Nam, when it was the top spot for pho ga.
For my first visit, I ordered #1 Dac Biet with combination of chicken thigh, breast, wing & chicken giblets.
The rau thom (mixed herb plate) looked good with very fresh and gigantic basil, sawtooth herb, plucked bean sprouts, fresh jalapeño slices, and lime. A small dipping dish contained sriracha sauce and oyster sauce. And the special house condiment is a blend of grated fresh ginger root, sugar, fish sauce, and chile paste that's ultra-delicious applied to the pieces of poached chicken.
While the chicken stock base was light on the palate, it was intensely chicken-y in aroma and flavor, plus those elusive notes that signal pho. I loved inhaling the scent. The various free-range chicken parts were poached well, firm of flesh with snappy skin, excellent flavor. I rotated dipping them in the three sauces. Not finding any gizzards, liver or heart, I called over a server to ask where the promised giblets were. He had me spoon through the contents until I hit a pale colored u-shaped piece that looked like chitlins. I he said, that's it. I guess it's chicken intenstine, which besides lacking color had little flavor either. Thin noodles were firm, and the bowl was garnished with scallions and cilantro. I saw one go by that had a pile of fried shallots on top, and my server said I could ask for that as an extra next time.
I also tried #27 Chicken feet in herb spice soup, $3.50. This had a completely different flavor profile with sweet dark spices and longan fruits. The feet themselves were undersized and rather unremarkable. That broth was glorious.
This is the first page of the menu. Pho ga can be ordered with specific chicken parts, including tails. However, I was sad to learn that "trung ga non" or young eggs are not an option here.
Fresh rice noodles are not available either, another strike against Pho Ga Nha. Yet, as is, this pho ga is still better than most and I'd return here happily.
Pho Ga Nha
930 Story Rd
San Jose, CA 95122
9AM to 10PM