It would be impossible for me to overstate how much I love Vietnamese pho. It's is my go-to for any situation in which I need to be soothed, comforted, or pampered. If I'm sick, if things just don't feel right with the world, if I am cold or lonely... pho cures it. I just lose myself in the warm curls of fragrant steam that waft from a huge bowl of luscious, herb and anise scented beef broth and everything topsy turvy begins to right itself.
Of course it also makes a sunnier day a bit sunnier, a happy occasion that much happier. If hard pressed, I might admit that I think pho could bring about world peace and cure cancer, but thankfully no one is pressing me too terribly hard today. In summary, pho is where it's at.
The best pho I've ever had was in San Francisco at one of the many noodle houses in the Sunset area. Filled with sliced rare beef, beef meatballs and tripe, it was a sensory delight. I haven't been able to find anything as good in New Orleans, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying what we do have.
Living in New Orleans uptown/Carrollton area, I am a bit farther away from all of the best areas for Vietnamese food than I would like to be. I also am usually on my own when I go out for pho and therefore, don't venture as far into neighborhoods I am less familiar with as I might if I had a lunch partner. Consequently, I haven't tried any of the better known pho shops in New Orleans East or on the Westbank. I am certainly open to suggestions for ones that are worth going out of my way for.
Currently, my go-to place is Frosty's on Cleary in Metairie. While I don't often go to Metairie, when I do, they are always my favorite stop. Coupled with the fact that they have absolutely divine bubble teas made from fresh fruit (no syrups), their pho is a delight. The ingredients are always crisp and fresh, the broth is richly flavored. It's lovely.
Yesterday, I had reason to travel out to Harahan and decided to try Kim Anh's Noodle House for the first time. Way, way down Jefferson highway, past the Huey P., past several river bends, I found it. It's housed in a tiny strip mall across the street from Colonial Bowling Lanes, a bit run down and understated. The dining room is very casual, as is usually the case in noodle houses, but clean and larger than I expected. I knew I wanted to order pho tai (pho with sliced beef) but thought I'd try some eggrolls as well. The spring rolls all come in quantities of 2 but I wanted the deep fried, crispy Chả giò rolls which the menu states are in quantities of 4. I was alone and didn't want all 4, but the server offered to let me place a half order.
They arrived perfectly hot and crisp, accompanied by a small salad of lettuce and pickled carrot and radish. The filling was delicious, a balanced blend of pork, shrimp and vegetables that had just the right amount of pepper. I was very pleased.
The pho was nice but not exceptional. I found the broth to be a little too bland for my taste and had to add more sriracha than I generally find necessary. I didn't detect any depth or the layers of anise, clove or beefiness that I look for in good beef pho broth. I even wondered if it had a chicken broth base instead. The plate of accompanying ingredients included the requisite bean sprouts, sliced jalapeno, lime wedges and herbs, in this case thai basil (Frosty's offers cilantro. I find either to be lovely). While not the absolute freshest, it was certainly within the realm of acceptability. The bowl was slightly smaller than I generally see, and cost $6.49. There is the option to upsize to a large bowl for an additional $1.29. I find this convenient, as I've never, ever been able to finish a whole bowl and appreciated the ability to waste less. I did enjoy my meal at Kim Anh's and would visit again if I were in that area, but I don't plan on making it a pho destination.
Where should be next on my list to try? Who has the best pho in the city? Extra points for options that include more than just sliced beef.