That a great bowl of pho need not be all gizzards and tail is blasphemy to some. So call mine the ignorant opinion of a margarine-raised Midwesterner, but I like really nice, clean shaves of neatly trimmed meat on top of plain rice noodles in a richly flavorful broth.
The broth—made with bony bits better not seen—is the real draw. Opinions about pho perfection are largely a matter of personal taste, but I believe great broth elevates your sense of well-being. Some get that from Ha VL, Pho Hung or Bun Bo Hue Minh. I don’t, so I’ve been driving south down Southeast 82nd Avenue in search of a narcotic blend of umami and starch, finally finding the herbal, sweetly beefy bowl of pho tai nam gau ($7.50) at Pho Huy. The lean meats make it the perfect bowl—for me, anyway.
Conveniently located in a Happy Valley strip mall where you can also pick up lottery tickets and beauty supplies or refill your printer cartridges, Pho Huy has neon signs in the window and a waitress who does that endearing knee-on-your-green-pleather-booth thing when she brings your sprouts, sprigs and slices.
Pork salad rolls,
made on request ($4.95), were better than average, with the shredded
meat neatly wrapped in an outer layer around vermicelli and crisply
fresh cilantro. The bun bowls aren’t bad, either. The bun ga
($8.95), made with grilled lemongrass-marinated chicken and a salad of
daikon, bean sprouts, cucumber and lettuce, freshened up our afternoon.
The Vietnamese-style chicken curry with sweet yams and potatoes ($8.95)
had a sauce a bit heavier than purists prefer, but will, presumably,
satiate someone not in the mood for pho. Yes, those people exist—at
least until they taste a broth like this.
- Order this: Pho tai chin ($7.50). Broth with rice noodles, round steak and brisket.
- I’ll pass: Canh ga chien don ($5.95). Double-fried chicken wings that cost about $1 each and aren’t great.
EAT: Pho Huy, 11342 SE 82nd Ave., Happy Valley, 353-6646. 10 am-9 pm daily. $.