Pho--6am 'til midnight in West Annandale
Some of the fun of hounding is being willing to try something unknown nearby when plans fall through. We remembered that A&J serves breakfast fare and mistakenly thought that they were open early on Sunday. Turns out they open at 10am, which was not going to work with either our schedule (needed to be at Glen Echo by 11:30)or the Chowpup.
As we got back into the car and headed toward 495 (we were headed to Eden Center), I spotted an "open" sign in the plaza across the street at Pho Hot. This precipitated a high speed turn into the plaza.
Pho Hot is the fanciest Pho place we've ever visited. The interior has cheerful bright yellow walls. Video screens alternating photos of Vietnam, their dishes, and, inexplicably, one of the Windows XP default screen savers, appear througout the place. Our chowpup was fascinated. There's a little sculpture in the center with a stylized pho bowl, complete with waving steam. Each of the side walls has a small fountain. It's also huge, easily twice the size of any other Pho place we've visited. Obviously, this is not "fancy" on the scale of any expense account restaurant, but it is not going to turn off your non-hound friends who won't patronize dives. In this case, the fancy decor did not mean the food had been Americanized. We were the only non-Asians in the place.
The menu included all the usual pho combinations. Unlike many pho places, they do offer a small selection of appetizers. The cha gio was top quality. There was something unusual in the dipping sauce. We couldn't identify the flavor, but it was a good addition.
The pho itself was a bit lighter on star anise than I prefer, but the broth had definitely seen plenty of beef and beef bones. The amount of meat was generous (I went for #2, eye round, well-done flank, tripe, and tendon), and the tendon was tender. Some places use sort of grisly tendon. Accompanying greens incuded what was, for us, a mystery green. It may have been saw tooth herb. It was like a flat, narrow lettuce, with a wonderful buttery flavor like Belgian endive.
They also had a kid's pho, which we ordered for the chowpup. They must know kids, because the menu offered the dish with or without scallions. The chowpup despises scallions. My one criticism is that the kid's pho should have been served a bit cooler. We had to dose it with ice to bring it to kid-friendly temperatures.
Pho Hot is open 6am to midnight on weekdays (last serving is at 11:45, and 9am to midnight on weekends.
Usual disclaimer: No affiliation.
3 years, 1 month later, we finally made it back to Pho Hot. The interior is still clean, bright, and cheerful. This time we were blown away by the broth, which was much richer than we've had anywhere else in recent memory, though still a bit light on the star anise. The meats were unusually flavorful, possibly the eye of round steak was cut a bit thicker, and portions of meat were generous.
They do offer some vegetarian soup selections, which is worth noting.
My one complaint is that we appear to have gotten the gringo treatment; I saw saw-tooth herb on other greens plates, but we didn't get any, and 2 of the 3 of us didn't get the tripe we'd ordered as part of the soup mixture. Amusingly enough, it was the chowpup who did receive her tripe.
The chowpup tried to convince us to return the following day, but the siren call of A&J was too loud.
Their website has some information about how to eat your pho, endorsing the soup spoon in one hand, sticks in the other method. http://www.phohot.com/home.php
So I stopped by for breakfast this morning on the way to work; I don't think I was impressed as bbarrick (not enough star anise flavor, and way too much noodles and meat to broth), but on the whole it was a solid bowl of pho, and the hours can't be beat.
I also concur w/ PollyG that this is the most upscale pho place I've seen, down to the waiters having uniforms and little name tags. The prices aren't upscale ($6 and $8 for small and large), and it's definitely not Americanized food, though; I was the only non-Southeast Asian there on my visit.
On the strength of this review, I took my daughter there last night. It was much as you describe. The portions seemed a little small, but the meat portions were more generous than I'm used to. My daughter had the child's bowl, which was much to her liking, but wasn't enough food. We'll likely go back, but order the large.
I've been trying each Pho in Northern Virginia that everyone thought worthwhile. I'm up to about six now. Tried Pho Hot today. Very impressed. I thought the broth was well balanced and beefy, the meat generous, the greens were the usual with Vietnamese basil. Everything was very fresh and the broth was clear. Service was friendly, place was clean, air conditioned and modern. Definitely a keeper. bb