The best phở have similar characteristics: Slippery but firm rice noodles. A hot, beefy broth laced with cloves, cinnamon and charred ginger. Fine meat that stands up to the broth. A wild forest of herbs and bean sprouts, served on the side. Surely at some point the law of entropy will prevail and L.A. will see more phở joints that focus less on bad puns and pale broths and more on simple, strong bowls of phở. Until -- or even if -- it gains a foothold in L.A. proper, these 10 places for phở will do.10. Phở Hoa:
There might not be any restaurant in Chinatown as sticky as Phở Hoa, a somewhat dark Vietnamese restaurant at the northern edge of Spring Street where cement meets courtyard before heading back out onto Alameda toward Homegirl Cafe. And yet, many a Vietnamese kid in Los Angeles has been to Phở Hoa at least once; it's almost as reliable as Phở 79, albeit a bit more one-dimensional. That said, it is one of the better bowls of phở this side of Alhambra. 818 N. Spring St., L.A.; (213) 485-0074.9. Nong Lá Café:
Upon first blush, Nong Lá's modern décor is reminiscent of other Vietnamese restaurants that try, to varying degree of success, to make the simple bowl of phở hip enough for the L.A. crowd. But the bún bò Huế on the menu here should tip you off that this isn't your hipster neighbor's Vietnamese fix. It is, rather, a very good answer -- finally! -- to the many laments about the dearth of solid Vietnamese options in L.A. proper. The broth in the phở (and in the bún bò Huế) may be a bit lighter than most in the SGV, and the phở đặc biệt doesn't include tendon, but these are minor quibbles. It's a clean broth that can be readily dressed up with the thick sauces lined up on the table like squeeze bottles of paint. And, hey, there is tripe. On this side of town, you could do far, far worse. 2055 Sawtelle Blvd., L.A.; (310) 268-1881.8. Good Girl Dinette:
Diep Tran's Highland Park invention is a Vietnamese joint mashed up with a modern-day diner, which makes the homey, humble bowl of phở an oddly perfect dish to be served between these exposed brick walls. The soup here comes in two stripes, one for those on the perpetual hunt for a decent bowl of phở ga (chicken phở) and one for those who like the idea of phở but for the meat. That vegetarian phở is particularly strong, well ahead of other attempts to make a vegetarian version of this traditionally beefy soup. Both are especially restorative on days when you feel under the weather. And where else can you have delicious french fries as a side to your phở? 110 N. Avenue 56, Highland Park; (323) 257-8980.
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