Phở Ý #1
San Jose, CA
I'd been meaning to take a trip down to San Jose and check out the second largest Vietnamese community in the United States. I'd always been a little lazy about driving all the way down there, but I finally went for the first time last week. I met up with my new friend Randy, whom I met at the Yelp Elite Event I attended at the end of January. He's Vietnamese and from San Jose, so after stuffing ourselves with meat, we made plans to meet up for pho in his hometown. With over 100,000 Vietnamese living there, I was hoping for some exceptional pho. He recommended Phở Ý #1.
There are a few Phở Ý locations around San Jose, but this one on Capitol Expressway is the original. Upon entering, the shop surprised me because it was so bare! It was a large, open space with white walls and very minimal decoration, just a few wall plaques and a couple of potted plants tucked into corners. But I guess it didn't matter, because that place was buzzing! Randy says it's the place for pho in the area. Interestingly, they don't bring you menus, which are kept in a basket by the door. I didn't realize that I was supposed to take one until a server came by and asked me if I wanted to order. I don't even have a menu! I thought. Maybe they just expect people to know what they want. Especially if they're Vietnamese. Fair enough, I always order the same thing anyway.
I guess it wouldn't be that surprising that they'd expect you to know, because they only serve pho. No spring rolls, no rice or vermicelli, just pho. Though I've become accustomed to Vietnamese restaurants offering a variety of options, Phở Ý was reminiscent of dining in Vietnam. In Vietnam, most food is served from carts where they do one thing, and do it very, very well. So the menu here just had pho on one side and beverages on the other. There's a variety of meats, of course, and you have your choice of small or large ($6-9). You can guess what I ordered: pho tai nam.
The pho came out incredibly quickly, in just a few minutes - but I was delighted even before then, when the garnishes were delivered. Everything I hoped for was there, specifically, saw leaf! I still don't know why I like it so much, but it makes a bowl of pho perfect for me.
While the color was lighter than I would prefer, the broth was very good. It was flavorful, with a nice onion flavor and solid use of spices. I would have liked the broth better if the meat and spice flavors were more enhanced, though. The noodles were good, a little on the al dente side. The meat was very tasty; nicely tender, not too much fat on the brisket.
All in all, I was kind of hoping to be blown away, but that didn't happen. It was a good bowl of pho, but not amazing. On the plus side, I have a pho buddy now! Randy and I are going to hit up the famous Turtle Tower next. I'm not sure exactly when we'll go, but I'm making sure to brush my teeth and floss extra carefully. Somehow, you get self-conscious about that when you go eat with a dentist...
- Broth flavor- 4/5
- Noodle & meat quality- 5/5
- Garnish selection- 2/2
- Portion size- 2/2
- Service- 3/5
- Cleanliness- 4/5
- Atmosphere- 2/4
- Speed of arrival- 2/2