Photo by Ian Hurdle
Order the wonton soup. Shred lettuce across the glistening broth and bob dumplings beneath its surface, tangling them into egg-noodle netting. Or, ask for the seafood soup, chewy with calamari, crispy with fried onion and sweetened with fleshy crab stick.
Vietnamese soup contains the brothy, distilled essence of beef, warmly spiced and streaked with masticatory delights — the tear of beef tendon and the soft pop of brisket fat. That describes the house specialty, pho #1, to which I add compressed Vietnamese meatballs. Whatever combo of noodles and broth you request, always order the large size. A deep bowl of broth energizes the noodles, warming and separating each strand. It catches and releases foggy soup steam from an enclave of garnishes. A big bowl also means a broad pond on which to float lime, basil, sprouts and jalapeños.
Pho (pronounced "fuh") is the Vietnamese soup eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snack. It soothes colds, palliates hangovers and, though healthy (pho is basically rice noodles in broth with a sprinkling of meat), a child will eat it without fuss. Besides pho, this fast-moving restaurant delivers plates of broken rice and grilled meats, fried and fresh spring rolls, and layered noodle bowls with combinations of things like tofu, pork and egg rolls stacked on top of each other and finished with pickled carrots in sweet spring roll sauce. It's a large menu riffing on a handful of specialties, basic and unpretentious, just like soup and rice.
The new Pho So #1 restaurant on West Broad Street near David's Bridal could double as a comfort center. There are lots of tables, two flat-screen TVs and plenty of soft beverages, but no alcohol. Though it's more dining hall than dining experience, you'll find personalization in how you dress your pho.
Pho So #1
9135 W. Broad St., 562-5531
Hours: Monday to Saturday
10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.
to 8 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.
Prices: Appetizers $2.50 to $3.50; mains, $7.50 to $8.50