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Nov 10, 2008 07:43 AM

why is the pho in nyc so bad and where can i find boston-like pho?

Hi all,

I used to live Boston, where bowls of pho were a staple for me. But ever since moving to NYC, I haven't been able to find pho that's at all satisfying. I've read here and there on the boards that NY pho and Boston pho are different because the vietnamese restaurants here are run by Vietnamese who were living in china, but does anyone know where I can find the more Boston-like stuff? I'm talking poached chicken (not grilled) that's pulled and served in the soup (not on the side) with a very flavorful broth full of basil, cilantro, and thin slice onions (v important!).

Any help would be much appreciated! Banh mi here seem different too, but that's less devastating to me...

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  1. The better pho in ny is in the outer boroughs. Pho Hoai on Ave U near Ocean Avenue or maybe closer for you they have a location 4th ave near 86th street in Bay Ridge. There is also Pho Tay Ho way down 86th street in Bensonhurst/Gravesend. Queens has a few options as well. Check the outerborough board for more on those.

    I can't say how it will compare to Boston but all three of those are better choices than anything I have found in Manhattan so far. Another option for bahn mi can be found in Sunset Park at Ba Xuyen on 8th ave. They also serve pho (you have to ask for it, not on the menu) but I have not tried it. Depending on when you get there, there may be a number of other options available pre-prepared that are worth trying as well. I had a bun noodle dish that varied in a few ways from what I have experienced before, most notably the inclusion of coconut cream to mix into the noodles.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dhs

      I miss Pho Hoai on 86th/4th! We used to go there weekly for pho or the fondue.

    2. The pho at Cong Ly is the best I've had in Manhattan. Might not be as good as what there is in Boston, but I like it; flavorful broth, sliced onions, etc. That said, I generally get the pho thai, and have never tried pho with chicken, poached or otherwise.

      In terms of banh mi, Banh Mi Saigon is fantastic, and fresh, but not open Mondays.

      Cong Ly Restaurant
      124 Hester St
      New York, NY 10002
      (212) 343-1111

      Bánh Mì Saigon Bakery
      138 Mott St.
      New York, NY 10002

      1 Reply
      1. re: monamiferdinand

        shih, I'm a recent convert from Boston myself, and the Bahn Mi at Saigon are the closest I've found to anything I had in Boston. I'd put them right up there with Mei Sum and Lu's Sandwich shop

        I haven't really explored the Pho side of things yet, but if I find something that reminds me of Boston, I'll be sure to post here

      2. That's interesting, since I just went back to Xe Lua on Mulberry last night
        ( and my friend ordered the Pho Ga.
        This is the first time I've had chicken pho at the table. The chicken was white strips/cords of poached chicken - tender yet enough texture. I always wondered if this Xe Lua is a branch of the one in Philly, but it hasn't been confirmed.

        I've not had Pho in Boston, so I can't say if it's similar. I like the broth here for its subtlety, although at times it's a bit sweeter than I'd like, i still like it a lot. With last night's "mind reading" chef (you'll have to read my post), I'll definitely go back.

        3 Replies
        1. re: HLing

          I went to Xe Lua shortly after I posted and it was definitely closer to the version I know. I didn't like the extra veggies (carrots, broccoli) in the soup, but this will be my go to until I find something better...

          1. re: HLing

            Hi HLing,

            After I read your post about Xe Lua early this year, I went to have the pho and enjoyed it a lot. I found other food to be just average, but I will go back just to have the pho.

            I walked past this place so many times without trying it until I read your post. So thanks a lot for your review!

            1. re: kobetobiko

              Shih, I don't remember my friend's pho ga having extra veggies, but I guess I was busy enjoying my #22. I think I would still want my beef pho broth base and the simple sprouts and leaves, but wouldn't mind having some of those pulled chicken pieces, too. I'm glad you're getting closer in your search.

              Kobetobiko, it's good to know you had a good experience at Xe Lua. More and more I'm realizing that good chow luck is not to be taken for granted. I haven't been a good Chowhound these days as I've not been eating out much. So, feeling a little guilty, I'm glad this one was also good when you tried it.

              The last two times I went to Xe Lua, they had picture menus! Of the picture menus there are two type: one of them doesn't list all the different pho, which I think might be tourist-friendly, but not Chowhound-friendly. The one that lists all the variety of Pho also is a picture menu, so...just be aware.

              I'll have to try Cong Ly one of these days.

          2. I like the pho at Cong Ly, as well; I haven't tried Xe Lua.

            That said... Where do
            you like in Boston? Perhaps I was eating in all the wrong places when I lived there, but I'm not sure I ever came across a really great pho joint there, either.

            4 Replies
            1. re: cimui

              I loved Pho Pasteur and even the viet place in the 88 food court. I never felt like I had a bad bowl of pho ga while I lived there, except, maybe, the stuff they try to pass off at Pho Republique

              1. re: shih

                It's been years since I had it, but I remember the Vietnamese place in the 88 food court being about as good as the Manhattan staples. To me the quality of the broth is most important and theirs was thin. Pho Pasteur was pretty good, though if it's better than Cong Ly, it'd only be by a little bit.

              2. re: cimui

                I like the pho at Cong Ly as well, never tried the pho ga.

                1. re: KTinNYC

                  Ditto. I tried several pho places in chinatown and Cong Ly is by far the favorite. Rich broth, fresh ingredient, clean kitchen and friendly old man. But I don't think they do a poached chicken pho.

              3. Can anyone with in depth knowledge of Vietnam speak to the prevalence of chicken based pho there? THe whole time I was there I only had/saw the beef kind. While I wouldn't be shocked of the existance of the chicken one, I assume its a lesser consumed alternative to the beef one. That being said, the regular pho thai i've had here (in NY) has stood up pretty well to vietnam.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Renguin

                  I just got back from a week in Vietnam, and I did notice that there were quite a few signs for pho ga (chicken), even a the tiny street stalls that you see everywhere. There were certainly more signs for pho bo (beef), but it would be easy to find a bowl of chicken pho if you wanted it these days.

                  1. re: LloydG

                    my parents are from vietnam and i've been 3 times. i've definitely had plenty of chicken pho.

                    as for places in nyc, i still haven't found any i've been satisfied with. i checked out the spots in brooklyn a few years back and wasn't that blown away but at least they poached the chicken (unlike so many places in manhattan that grill it with lemongrass--tasty but totally not authentic). that said, xe lua does use poached chicken, but last time i had pho they put broccoli and carrots in there, which was kind of wrong.

                    1. re: waxyjax

                      is the grilled chicken tastier than the poached? as tasty? less tasty?

                      i always find that more germane to my interests than "authenticity"

                      1. re: thew

                        i personally find the grilled to be less tasty. it's got a great flavor, but it's very One Note, and i get sick of it quickly. a poached chicken pho is going to have way more of a subtle ftaste