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Apr 27, 2008 06:19 PM

Good and Bad Pho in the San Gabriel Valley

I've been on here several times as an observer of so many bulletins on vietnamese food in the San Gabriel Valley. Some i agree with and some I don't. I am a vietnamese food critic for a large vietnamese newspaper. I come from a family of restauranteers and when you sit around a dinner table listening to all my family members talk of the good and bad of what is there to offer in the san gabriel valley, one has no choice but to soak it in and let the rest of the world know.
#1 rule on vietnamese dining ( ask any old vietnamese person and they'll tell you the same thing ) : Always eat in a vietnamese restaurant that is populated with vietnamese diners. If there are a lot of non vietnamese people ( caucasians ), the food is crap. Reason being, hardcore vietnamese people know what vietnamese food should taste like.
#2 rule. Beware of pho restaurants playing chinese music and the waitresses only speak chinese. This is the same thing as koreans opening up sushi restaurants because its profitable. It may be close, but its not authentic . Any vietnamese diner could tell the difference. Because pho is very desired, a lot of asians are jumping on the bandwagon to open one. Pho King closed as quickly as it opened for business a couple of years ago because of this.
- Pho Pasteur is not real pho. It is stocked up with a lot of soup bases from packages and msg. You can tell by looking at the broth that it is nothing but msg. You must look for clear broth because that denotes that the chef took time to let beef bones simmer for hours and hours to flavor the soup.
-Pho Hien ( not Hien-Mai ) is definitely a hole in the wall but is a surviving restaurant because they cook their pho broth overnight. If you just happen to drive by early in the morning, you can see an old lady carrying a huge pot of pho from their vehicle to the restaurant. They may not be #1 in customer service but they do know what they're doing.
-Pho Hien-Mai is the husband of Pho Hien's owner ( they got into an argument and he took off to open up a pho restaurant 2 blocks away ) He wanted to make as much profit as possible by speeding up the process of making pho and using msg. The wife believed in taking her time using natural ingredients like the old country to make her pho. She believed customers will be more loyal this way. ( This is a rumor amongst many vietnamese people in the community ). Hence, his restaurant is not nearly as busy as hers.
-Golden Deli is another restaurant that is definitely worth dining in BUT not for the pho. They're specialty is Bun ( vermicelli ) and any dish that uses fish sauce.
-Pho 79 is also good and their name/recipe is handed down from generation to generation. Their name is very well know because its been here since the beginning of time.
-Pho Nguyen Hoang is too expensive, period and they use too much anise seed in their broth. The aroma is too strong and it is overly used to drown out the msg they don't want you to taste.
-Bakery 101 on Garvey between garfield and atlantic is by far the best quality pho made. They use strips of filet mignon steak instead of rare beef flanks like typical pho restaurants do. This place is sort of hidden and their name doesn't denote that they're a pho restaurant. Their pho is from northern vietnam instead of southern. The noodles are wider as its characteristic.

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  1. I love Pho 79 and eat there when I'm in the area. Always see lots of Vietnamese families and very few whites. Thanks for confirming my choice. I work near Bakery 101 and will try it next!!

    1. Hey luckyapril7,

      The Pho Hien you're talking about is the one on Garvey, like ~5-7 blocks East of Rosemead, right? (If you're heading on Garvey going Eastbound from Rosemead, it's on the left-hand side?)

      2 Replies
      1. re: exilekiss

        i believe she changed the name to pho hien-mai, but it is in that area east of rosemead.

        1. re: exilekiss

          i made a huge mistake because when i drove by pho hien mai, it was the good pho restaurant not the bad one. Pho Hien is the one the husband took and branched off. I got them mixed up. I actually drove by Pho Hien Mai to eat but too packed. You won't find chinese or white folks in there. Only hardcore pho eaters.

        2. Isn't 101 Bakery the place that advertises "NO MSG" on its window?

          1 Reply
          1. Thank you so much for this insider's view! I've been lucky so far -- Pho 79 was the second pho I ever tried, and I've always been happy there. But now I am eager to try Bakery 101! Do you recommend any particular pho there, or do they have a house special bowl?
            I've never tried the pho at Golden Deli (although I love many of their other dishes) so I'm happy to know I haven't been missing a star bowl of pho there.

            4 Replies
            1. re: khh1138

              pho bac ( northern vietnamese pho ) is there specialty, also there most expensive. It is filet mignon pho.

              1. re: luckyapril7

                YUM! Thanks again. That was a really good tip. I'd pay double for such a good bowl. Good fruit smoothies, too.

              2. re: khh1138

                honestly, if you liked pho 79, give golden deli's pho a shot. whether it's authentic or not, it's on par if not better than 79. (by better i mean tastier) lol. both places have good and bad days, but they're both a cut above most of the other pho places in the SGV, and so i find myself bouncing between the two quite a bit.

                1. re: rameniac

                  From you, rameniac, I'll believe it. I would take your word if you told me Ralph's deli was the new best place for noodles. I'll be sure to try Golden Deli's pho next time. :D

              3. Please avoid Pho Super Bowl. I had the worst pho there. Not only the pho's bad, their bun is horrible as well.

                Pho Super Bowl
                1300 E Main St, Alhambra, CA 91801

                3 Replies
                1. re: eileen216

                  Pho Super Bowl is not that bad. It's no Pho 79 but it's not the worse or the best. On a scale of 1-10 it's about a 6.

                  1. re: eileen216

                    Sorry, I would disagree with you. I think their pho is very good.

                    1. re: eileen216

                      I really like the bun at Pho Super Bowl (very fresh and light), and find the pho there to be better than the pho at Golden Deli/Vietnam House. But I'm Taiwanese, so what do I know?