Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Power of the Pen: Post-LA Times Pho Minh

Having read the moving LA Times story last week about Pho Minh, a critically acclaimed but financially struggling Pho house in South El Monte, I decided to check it out.

The good news is that for breakfast the weekend after the article came out, the place was pretty bustling. Most, though not all tables were full and lots of pho was coming out of the kitchen.

Pho Minh pretty much does only pho. There are no other noodle dishes and not much else on the menu. They do have cha gio, Vietnamese spring rolls, but while the filling was good, they were made with egg roll wrappers rather than the more traditional, and much more tasty rice paper.

Now, as a preface, I should say that I am not a pho-natic. My Vietnamese meal of choice is the noodle dish bun, but I like pho and can appreciate, though not worship, a great one.

The key to pho is the broth; someone once told me it should be made using the whole cow. It should be the essence of all that is beef, accentuated with whatever seasoning and garnish you choose to add to it. The broth at Pho Minh was superb and magnificently beefy. The broth was so rich and wonderful that I was hesitant to add any of the sauces or chilis, just a squeeze of lime and some herbs made it perfect. I wanted to taste it over and over to get all of that beef flavor. In addition, the noodles were perfectly cooked, nice and chewy. The pho comes in both a small and large size, but the small was plenty for me.

Is this pho "divine," as Jonathan Gold opined? As noted above, I don't really find divinity in pho, but this is seriously good pho, and certainly the richest and most delicious I recall having in the LA area.

In the LA Times article, proprietor Eric Lam talked about expanding the menu, but I like it the way it is. There is something wonderful about a restaurant that does just one thing, but does that thing very, very well.

Pho Minh
9646 Garvey Ave # 109
South El Monte, CA 91733
(626) 448-8807


mattatouille said...

I enjoy your prose and word choice. very fine food writing. hope to keep reading. Found your blog through Digesty.

mattatouille said...

oh, and I don't particularly find pho the most amazing, divine food, but there are moments that it reaches for the heavens...and gets close. I need to try Pho Minh but I fear heavy traffic may deter me on a weekend.

sku said...

Thanks for your comments Matt. I went early last Saturday and it was busy, but there were no lines. I would think the LA Times buzz would have died down enough to make this a pretty good bet for this weekend or after.

D said...

Vietnam House in Alhambra is so far my tops. There is that Pho place in Chinatown in Honolulu (next to the canal) which always has a huge line, and then the empty pho place next door that lives of people who won't wait in line..I waited in line for 45 minutes to try the popular one, but I don't remember it blowing me away.