Those who know me know of my OBSESSION with pho. There’s something about a bowl of aromatic soup noodles that is so darn comforting. Call it chicken noodle soup for the Asian soul, I guess. HK Island is dotted with Vietnamese joints and I’ve sampled a fair bit, though I must admit I get stuck on my favorite, Nha Trang. However, I’ve found a worthy pho rival on the streets of Wan Chai: Pho Saigon. This place makes steaming bowls of brothy goodness just like the stuff I had in Hanoi. Go. If you appreciate authentic pho, you will not be disappointed.
My first experience with Pho Saigon was take-away, and honestly, I’m glad it was. That’s because they packed my broth and noodles separate and I think I got extra broth (which is my favorite part of the dish!). It was amazing to taste them separately because it seemed as though the already-amazing brother underwent a metamorphosis when I poured it into the bowl with chilis, lime, and marjoram (OMMMMGGG the marjoram! So good!). Pre-noodles, the broth had the most wonderful taste of cloves and star anise that I haven’t gotten in any other pho place in town. So heavenly.
I loved the pho so much I went to the restaurant later that week. The manager/host is super-nice; he’s Vietnamese but speaks really good English, and quite good Canto, from what I could tell. He actually remembered me from earlier in the week; when we came in, he immediately said, “Welcome back!” (to the amusement of my dining companions, P and W). We ordered the pho again, the sweet potato curry, rice paper rolls, and the original bahn mi. Truthfully, I think the pho is the best out of those dishes; I’ve gotten better for both the latter two items. However, the sweet potato curry was really unique – the sweetness came not from coconuts, as is usually expected, but from the mashy sweet potato. The manager also told us if the curry wasn’t thick enough we could stir it up or ask him for more. I liked that; service felt very personalized. It seemed like he actually cared if we had a good dining experience, which is a pleasant departure from some other places in town where they expect you to eat it and beat it, so long as they get your money.
P also got a hot Vietnamese coffee at the end of the meal. He pronounced it one of the best ones he’s had; the coffee itself was just a little bit sweet but still boldly biting.
But the pho! Every time I think about it, I want to pull a Joseph-Conrad-Heart-of-Darkness moment and just cry out, “The pho! The pho!” Except what I’m dying of is happiness.
G/F, 319 Hennessy Road
Cost: ~ Takeaway $31 for small bowl of pho; $80 for dine-in dinner