We were hungry at 11pm on a Friday and EVERYTHING in OC was closed except fast food! You gotta love the OC where at the stroke of 10 PM, everything stops. We headed to Little Saigon to Pho Thanh because its open 24/7. We saw some other Pho places open on the way, and agreed that they didn't seem too busy. When we visit Asian restaurants, we usually feel that the busier it is, the better it is. At 11:30pm Pho Thanh must have had 60 people in it!!
Does the perfect Pho place exist? I am beginning to think not. But Pho Thanh in Westmister is the closest thing you will find near perfection. And the reasons it isn't are due to minor things or annoyances. The decor is plain and bright. Mostly Asian diners. Its in a strip mall by Brookhurst and Bolsa. 20 minutes from my house....another annoyance due to the distance. And what is with that construction on the 22?! . But I digress.....
The first thing that is great about this place are the condiments They have all the right ones. Not only do they have the Sriracha Chili Paste in a bottle, but the have the coarser, ground one with garlic in the jar. They also have satay sauce in a jar! The only thing that was missing was the Chinese pepper instead of regular black pepper.
Notice the authentic and complete veggie condiments. Look how they have the Gai (saw leaf) herb. So many places never have this. Since this place must do so much volume, everything is so fresh! The basil was so green and crispy along with everything else. They bring this to you right when you sit down. I like this because you can get to work tearing it up so you can put it torn up in your soup right when it arrives so it has a chance to steep. Too many places bring it with the Pho or (gasp!) even after it arrives!
I ordered the #1 special combination Pho with rare beef, cooked brisket, tendon, tripe. Mrs. Dog had the Chicken Pho. We ordered egg rolls too with 1 coke and 1 iced tea.
First came the Pho. How come so many of these places don't understand what an appetizer is and that it should be brought out first?! My Pho came out right away; before the appetizer! Notice how perfect it is though! Notice how the rare meat is actually rare. Yet the broth is scalding hot! Then tendon is surrounded by gelatinous goodness and lots of green onion. This place BY FAR makes the best Pho. The flavor of the broth is the most complex I have had (and I have tried probably 20 Pho places in OC). Every flavor is so strong, but they all work together. You can taste the ginger a little more than the rest, but I like this. Strong anise, lemongrass, and a slight fish sauce flavor. All with a perfect sweetness to it. Absolutely stunning. Noodles are firm, yet silky. The don't clump together like some places. The meat was so tender and such a treat to have it so rare when its not ordered on the side. The tendon is like eating a melting, chewy morsel that literally melts in your mouth. The tripe is flavorful, crisp and chewy.
Mrs. Dog's chicken was the chicken they pull from the bone. Not like the places that use processed chicken. As a matter of fact some of the bones were still in there. Another small annoyance. A great strong chicken flavor in the broth as well.
Another small annoyance is that the portions are a little small in my opinion. They are not "small", but they are not large. How much more would it cost to toss in a little more broth and noodles? Maybe its because this stuff is so good, I always want more?
You have to pay for water if you ask for it and it comes in tiny bottles (I think 4 oz). A soft drink is $1.00 and comes in a tiny 8 oz glass. NO refills. This is pretty annoying and the only thing I really hate about this place. Its not worth it to be that stingy to your customers.
Next came the egg rolls half way through our Pho meal. Sorry about the bad picture. Notice how much lettuce you get. This is critical as most places always jack you on the lettuce and you never have enough to wrap all the egg rolls with. Also it came with lost of cilantro sprigs. A nice dipping sauce as well. They were not greasy and very light. But not a lot of flavor. I felt it could have used more filling in the inside. I would put these as "average"
Our total bill was $20.00 as I tipped horribly as I don't feel you get any service. They bring everything out to you and then they are DONE with you.
Someday I hope to find a place that is truly "perfect". All the condiments (including Chinese pepper ), great Pho, appetizers out first, big portions, open late, refills on drinks, free water, close to my house. I know, I know....I ask for soooooo much. But until then, this place is the best I have found.
9625 Bolsa Ave
Westminster, Ca 92683