Final Pho Round 1: Pho Thanh Lich vs. Pho Vinh Ky II
|Pho Thanh Lich's Pho Dac Biet|
Pho is soul-nourishing poverty food, and as such, the more of the tough, cheap parts of the steer go into the broth, the better it gets. Tough, fatty beef brisket adds a rich, beefy flavor to the broth, while collagen-rich tendons simmer until they dissolve into gelatin and thicken the broth. The more old-school the shop, you're more likely you are to find the "nasty bits" like tendon and tripe on the menu, as well as the customers who love them.
Pho Thanh Lich's soup is ALWAYS dead-on: rich in mouthfeel, beefy in flavor and brown in color, instead of the thin, gray, dirty dishwater served at lesser pho shops. The most difficult cuts of meat to cook well--the fatty, fibrous brisket, tendon and tough tripe--are cooked expertly. Every. Single. Time.
As though to show off the quality of the more expensive raw beef tenderloin, Thanh Lich slices the meat thicker than most shops before laying it atop the bowl of hot soup to poach until cooked through. Despite the thicker cut, the meat yields easily to the teeth. Bottom line: The pho dac biet is the star player, the one that shows off how well the kitchen works with both the expensive beef cuts and the nasty bits.
|Fish pho at Pho Vinh Ky II|
Mano a mano, these two bowls are equally great, and I can't call a winner. So this match goes into a sudden-death shootout with players off the bench. Never mind that I'm switching from a boxing meta-pho to hockey. Keep up with me!
|Pho Thanh Lich chicken pho|
But this broth! Slicked with yellow schmaltz, it's every bit the curative elixir that any Jewish grandmother would be proud to call her own. The chicken flavor is concentrated as the broth simmers down throughout the day, but so is the salt content. Perhaps this might be better during lunch, when the salt is not as concentrated. It's a minor nit in an otherwise brilliant soup. Thanh Lich shoots with chicken pho, and Thanh Lich scores!!
|Pho Vinh Ky II's #2 beef pho|
Winner: Pho Thanh Lich!
What makes a champion? Consistent excellence in everything. Once again, last year's champ comes through with perfectly executed beef pho and an equally talented wing man, the chicken pho. Let's see how Pho Thanh Lich fares in round 2 against some new-school pho shops. . . . In the meanwhile, onward on the bracket!
Pho Thanh Lich, 14500 Brookhurst St., Westminster, (714) 531-5789.
Pho Vinh Ky II, 14390 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove, (714) 531-4965.
PREVIOUS ROUND 1 WINNERS:
Pho Dakao vs. Kim Loan; winner: Pho Dakao
AnQi vs. Benley; winner, Benley