Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Beef and Noodle Soup for the Soul

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a traveler in possession of a fortune in frequent flyer miles, must be in want of a good meal. C. is on her second visit to DC, and I wanted her to have something she couldn't get in her current field assignment in the Southern Hemisphere. Taking advantage of the overcast weather on Sunday, we walked across Key Bridge to get some Pho.

My former boss was born and raised in Vietnam; I survived the Boston winters thanks to its magical properties, and after 5 years in DC I am extremely picky. While the Eden Center has any of the DC offerings beat (4 Sisters, a restaurant after my own heart), I don't have a car, and favor places that are Metro-accessible. I gave Saigon Bistro on P a fighting chance, but found their Pho too watery. Vietnam Georgetown - that can't be called pho. If I learned anything from my former boss, is that the best pho comes from places that specialize in it. Pho is a very work-intensive soup, and it is hard to get the proportions right.

Pho 75 is as no-frills as they come. Located on a strip mall from Courthouse's less affluent days, the plain white walls display decades' worth of Washingtonian restaurant awards. The tables are long, rectangular, and shared. The place closes at 8 PM, and the host, who doubles as a server, will flag you to your seat, cab-style. If you go there during the lunch rush, expect a line (but don't worry, it moves fast). The menu is short on variety - pho with different toppings (flank, meatballs, round-eye steak, tripe, and others), some desserts, a selection of drinks (my favorite are the young coconut and the iced tea). The pho comes in two sizes, regular and large. As with other pho places, Pho 75 provides a beautiful plate of fixings - fresh jalapeno, basil, limes, and sprouts. The table has a sauce station with hoisin and sriracha hot sauce. My rule of thumb? As much of the hot sauce as I can stand (which is plenty). Well-prepared Pho is complex enough to not warrant my spice assaults, though I always add lime juice because the acidity balances out the pungency of the broth.

As far as dessert goes, Pho 75 does not have the advantage of its Eden Center counterparts with bakeries next door. Try Cafe Assorti across the street instead.

Since Pho requires chopsticks as well as a spoon, slurping is often necessary, and you're sitting right next to perfect strangers, it's a hard meal to have a conversation over. So consider the soup, enjoy the sounds of happy dining, and be very grateful for limes.

Pho 75 (Arlington) on Urbanspoon
Pho 75 (Arlington)
1721 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22209
(703) 525-7355

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