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Oct 19, 2005 02:14 AM

Pho Dac Biet & Bo Vien @ Pho Ao Sen 2 in Newark

  • m

Tuesday's lunch was a bowl of light and fragrant beef noodle soup at Pho Ao Sen 2 in Newark. I chose the option with everything plus beef meatballs. For 30¢ extra, the rare steak was served on the side instead of steeping in the bowl.

I was impressed. The garnishes were sparkling fresh. I was happy to see culantro (sawtooth herb) in addition to the sprigs of basil. The bean sprouts were picked of the root threads. I used the quartered lime in my ice water. On the soup, the onions, scallions, and cilantro were freshly sliced, using the barest tender white and yellow parts of the scallion.

The meats were pristine - thinly shaved, chewy book tripe, toothsome lengths of tendon, well-done and still tender steak, and awesome fatty brisket with a near crunchy line of gristly fascia. The freshly cut rare steak retained all its juices. The well-seasoned meatballs had a less rubbery and more ground meat-like texture with a healthy dose of white pepper. This might be the best all-round quality in the meats I've seen with ideal textures in all. Neither the tendon or brisket were highly spiced or anise-y, just the essential beefiness shining through.

Noodles were just right, a loose web that untangled easily with good bite still. The lighter style broth was good but had a slightly cloying MSG-like sweetness in the finish. Otherwise, this would be just about perfect. Even so, I'd have to put this in the top echelons of local pho circles.



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  1. Nice picture, I can smell that soup!

    The broth at Pho Ao Sen in Oakland has always inclined toward the sweetish side, but still very clean and with good beefy flavor. Did you happen to find out if they're "cousins"?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Shep

      From my understanding, they are both owned by the same person, the original AoSen in Oakland.

      1. re: Uyen

        Thanks, I didn't ask. I've not been to the location in Oakland, but if Newark is a pure clone, then I understand why it is so loved.


    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. Melanie, that photo is making me very, very hungry! The broth looks rich and flavorful w/o being greasy or murky. The raw beef is the freshest I've ever seen at a pho joint (although I don't understand the extra charge to serve on the side). The bean sprouts even look bright and perky. I can't quite tell how wide the noodles are, but they look on the thin side for my taste. A beautiful lunch!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Carb Lover

          I always ask for the rare/raw steak on the side. Here the 30¢ charge is listed on the menu. When I was commuting to Orange County a couple years ago, some of the places I tried there also charged extra to do that.

          Everything was really fresh and pristine. The noodles were the thinnish type.

          Care to try your hand at reverse engineering the sauce that Han and I puzzled over for the nem nuong in the earlier thread on this place?

          The great thing is that I can drive there, have a sit-down hot lunch, and drive back to my client in 40 minutes. The efficiency of these pho places continues to amaze me. Also, this place isn't full at the peak of the lunch hour, at least the two times I tried it. My lunch was $7.50 including tax and tip. A steal.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Those nem nuong rolls looked interesting. That sauce is even more fascinating b/c I've never encountered a Viet dipping sauce w/ that appearance and description before. You are usually so good about dissecting flavors, so the fact that this sauce eluded you says something.

            Nem nuong is usually served w/ nuoc leo (peanut sauce) or nuoc cham. From the looks of the sauce, I immediately thought curry, but that flavor is so distinct that you would have picked up on it. So I'm thinking it's some special house sauce that gets its color from turmeric, which doesn't have a whole lot of flavor for me. Since the sauce was thick, they may have cooked down other things (what exactly, I'm not sure) and then pureed. Keep us posted if you unravel the mystery...

        2. Pho Ao Sen 2, Newark is closed now and has been replaced with My Tho. My Tho is still operating at its old location in Newark, not sure if it will be replaced as well.

          4 Replies
          1. re: DezzerSF

            Too bad, guess I'll finally make my way to the Pho Ao Sen mothership in Oakland. How do you like My Tho?

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I tried their pho at the old location and didn't like it too much. The brisket seemed old as the outer fatty parts were dry and hard to chew. The rest of the beef didn't make up for it. The broth was pretty dark & heavy on the cinnamon, reminded me of pho broth I tried to make once (not good). My fiancee didn't have anything bad to say about the rice plate she had. I think she probably had grilled pork or beef over rice, which I tasted but wasn't thrilled about.

              I forgot to mention that the new My Tho has yet to open, only the sign is up.

            2. re: DezzerSF

              Is that related to the My Tho on Hesperian in San Lorenzo?

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Not sure, really. I remember reading San Lorenzo's spring rolls were good.