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Philadelphia: Pho 75

It might not be well known, but the traditional Italian south street in Philadelphia has over the years been hybridized with the newer wave of Vietnamese immigrants, forming a weird area where Pat’s and Geno’s sit next to Pho and coffee shops. And there are a lot of pho restaurant. I am very confident there are more noodle shops that Philly cheesesteak shops, at least in this part of the city, yet, we don’t really connect Philadelphia to the national dish of Vietnam. Of all the pho places, Pho 75 is by far the most famous, countless of accolades and praises. I have never been to Vietnam, and could never distinguish the best from the good, just like how I see its neighbor – the Japanese ramen. So, even with all the hype, I come not expected to be surprised.

All the noodle option.

Like most Asian-American restaurants, Pho 75 is in the heart of a shopping plaza, come equipped with another pho restaurant, a coffee/bubble tea shop, and a huge Vietnamese grocery shop. We couldn’t even find it initially, because of the weird logo and the whole plaza is plastered with neon signs in bold letters. Unlike the busy fonts going on outside, it is peaceful and quiet in the restaurant. Cool air blasted from the air conditioner, which is nice for a hot day eating hot soup. We promptly seated, but takes much longer to go through the different options that come with pho. See, pho is simple – there is only one choice for the base and the noodle. The difficulty lies in choosing the protein – do you want the rare brisket? How about be bold and order some tripe? Or Meatball? Not eating beef today – chicken it is. And it is not like subway where you stack as much as you want; you got to choose the correct combination for you. That is why, after all the pros and cons list, I order the no.1. It feels like they figured out the best meats, so I don’t have to.

Vietnamese Coffee.
No.1 – Slices of eye-round steak, well-done flank, Fat brisket, Soft Tendon and Beef Tripe.

It takes about 2 minutes to get everything ready. The small bowl is not small; the large bowl is huge. I’m famished, and this is still too much for me. I asked for no cilantro, and similar to other pho restaurants, the noodles come with a huge side of bean sprouts and jalapenos. Pho 75 does not skim on the meat, even though the bowl of noodle is less than $8! The meat is fine, the noodle taste like rice vermicelli. The soup, on the other hand, is definitely the best pho soup I have ever had. Pho uses a light soup broth, so it is usually not very flavorful. Here, they have perfected the broth, it is rich and complex, and it hits me on the first spoonful. They might have seasoned it with salt, or MSG, or some other forgotten home-made recipe, but they hit the umami key on the exact right note. Forget about the chili sauce or basil, and just stick with the original plain soup. I would even only order the soup, which is on the menu and I was laughing at that idea thinking it was stupid. Now, I look like the uncultured person.

Even with the a/c on, I’m starting to sweat by the end of the meal. Yet, I will come back and get more pho here. I didn’t even talk about the Vietnamese coffee I ordered (spoiler, it is very bitter without the condensed milk) There might be better pho in Vietnam, or California, or some ex-soviet nations. The truth it, I don’t know, and I don’t care anymore. In my opinion, there isn’t any reasons to go elsewhere. Come here, and be addicted to this delicious pho noodle bowl. How are there other pho shops in the city? I hereby crown this pho good enough for the gods.

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