As promised, I went to Pho Saigon 8 to compare their vegetable pho against that of Pho So 1. It is now obvious to me why Pho Saigon 8 is repeatedly hailed as having the best pho in town. I had been to Pho Saigon 8 once before and remeber being happy with the meal, though I had ordered a pho with meat that had a little too much tendon and cartilage for my liking. Since I am moving closer to becoming a vegetarian (not because I don't like meat but because I'm becoming rather disgusted with the way animals in America are raised), I love when restaurants do veggies well. The pho here had a much wider array of vegetables as you can see in the photo above, which not only made it more colorful, but also more nutritious and fun to eat. The veggies were cooked perfectly to boot, and the broth was richer and more flavorful than the other. Even though it was a dollar more than the pho at Pho So 1 ($6.95 vs. $5.95), it was definitely worth the added expense. Since I was with my friend Lauren, we also ordered the Bun Tom Thit Nuong Cha Gio, AKA #70 ($7.95). The bowl included grilled shrimp and grilled sliced pork atop thin vermicelli noodles, as well as vegetables and an egg roll. It was served with a sweet sauce to pour over the dish along with chopped peanuts and cilantro as garnishes. The pork was sweet and had great BBQ flavor, but the shrimp needed a touch more seasoning. I was thrilled when I dug to the bottom of the bowl and found another layer of crisp vegetables beneath the noodles. I love a dish with an element of suprise!
The service and ambiance were not as exciting as the food. It is a busy place with family style tables so we were rushed to place our order, and there is nothing redeeming about the space. They have some very strange decorations around the cash register (old grapes intended to be an offering, from what I could gather), and a bizarre ceiling fan (two non-functioning metal desk fans circling around a light). I would not let these elements stand in the way of my coming back, however, I wouldn't recommend it as a place for a first date.
Today's Food Rating: 7.5
Would I go back? YES. IT WAS THE PERFECT MEAL FOR A CHILLY WINTER DAY
Bun Tom Thit Nuong Cha Gio, #70