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Sep 9, 2008 04:51 PM

Sacramento chowfind (or, why didn't you tell me about that before?)

The kids wanted Vietnamese this weekend, so we headed over to Pho Bac Hoa Viet (the Madison Avenue location). I wasn't in the mood for any of my usual dishes, but saw another diner working on what looked like duck soup, so ordered that.

Oh. My. God.

The broth is fantastic. Not the generic chicken stock that so many places pour over noodles and top with random meats. It's limpid and golden and redolent of roast duck. Absolutely spectacular. There's crisp-tender baby cai thia (aka bok choy) and al dente egg noodles topped with a generous serving of perfectly-roasted bone-in duck, all of it swimming in this broth. This incredible, delicious broth. There is probably better duck soup in the world. There may even be better duck soup in Sacramento. But I sure haven't found it.

What's really amazing to me is that I've been a regular at this place for more than a decade, and never once dreamed that there was something this sublime buried in the middle of the menu. Chatting with the manager, she said that they've been serving it all along, and that it's always been good. Gave me a good-natured hard time about it, too--"you come in here every week and order a large #1--you think that's the only thing we know how to cook?"

So first, I heartily recommend Hoa Viet's duck and egg noodle soup to one and all. But this eye-opening (and mouthwatering) experience raises a whole 'nother question: what are we missing by ordering "the usual" at our favorite chow spots? What other incredible surprises are hidden in other restaurants' menus? Anybody?

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  1. The duck soup IS sublime. We dream about it all the time and now that we're living in Hawaii, we contemplate high priced airline tickets just to get it. We used to substitute rice noodles sometimes and it was fantastic! We used to go to the broadway location three or four times a week and oh do we miss it! Never went to any of the other ones, though.

    1. My favorite Vietnamese soup is not Pho, but bun bo hue,
      which is a spicier soup from central Vietnam (Hue),
      but Pho Bac Hoa Viet does not make it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: bclevy

        Pho King II (gotta love the name--"Where'd you spend your lunch hour? Pho King!") has pretty tasty bun bo hue, but I'm a relative novice. Any places in particular that you recommend?

        1. re: alanbarnes

          I have not yet been able to find a really good bun bo hue
          in Sacramento. I recommend Bun Bo Hue An Nam in San Jose.
          It is slightly pricy for a Vietnamese restaurant, but since Vietnamese
          restaurants are so cheap, pricy means still quite inexpenive
          by US standards.