If you are in the habit of visiting Vietnamese noodle houses in the San Gabriel Valley, the newish pho parlor Saigon Flavor, down near the Great Mall of China, may seem awfully familiar. The photo-mural of the rushing waterfall seems like something you’ve seen before. The arrangement of blue-vinyl booths and freestanding partitioned tables reminds you of something you can’t quite put your finger on. The scent is familiar too — sweet, sharply garlicky, with faint overtones of fish sauce, roasted coffee and burnt spices. But it isn’t until you slide into a booth that the truth makes itself known — this isn’t just a clone of Golden Deli, it is Golden Deli, right down to the posters on the wall and the arrangement of condiments on the table, and the menu that the waitress has just handed you doesn’t even bother to disguise itself — it says “Golden Deli” right on the cover. Saigon Flavor could do worse than duplicate Golden Deli, which has the mellowest pho, beef noodle soup, in the Valley; delicious noodle mats, banh hoi, that you wrap into lettuce-leaf bundles with purple basil, cucumber and cinnamon-perfumed grilled pork; decent chicken noodle soup, pho ga; and the best fried spring rolls, cha gio, in town, Louisville Slugger–size cylinders packed with pork, crab and transparent vermicelli, browned to a bubbly, crackling crisp. 208 E. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 572-6036.

LA Weekly