Final Pho, Round 1: Pho 79 vs. Pho 86
|Pho 79's pho tai nam ve gan gau--rare and well-done beef, flank, brisket and tendons|
Staring at each other moodily catercornered at the intersection of Brookhurst and Hazard are two of the most beloved, O.G. pho shops in Orange County. They're so O.G. that, in a nod to the utilitarian naming policies of the Vietnamese government, they are identified not by name, but by number. Pho 79 is in Garden Grove; Pho 86 is in Westminster, the two grandes dames of the Vietnamese diaspora in this county.
|Park creatively. Everyone else does.|
The glory of Pho 79 is the portioning. If you get lucky, there will be more meat than noodles in the bowl; the difference in sizes seems to be the amount of broth ladled in. The rare beef is cut thinly enough to float on top, but thickly enough to remain pink and tender even halfway into the consumption of the bowl. The flank is almost sweet, and the tendons have the perfect blend of squoosh and pop. The noodles separate with one poke of a chopstick, and the broth may be the one that marries the best with húng quế, the Thai basil that comes with saw-tooth herb on the table salad plate. (Use whole leaves for the best effect.)