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Jan 24, 2013 12:06 PM

Pho 2000 in San Francisco: Breakfast of Champions

Recommended to me by a Vietnamese acquaintance, I had a chance to check out Pho 2000 last month when a visitor from Paris craved a Southeast Asian meal and breakfast hour was the only intersection on our calendars. Pho 2000 opens at 8:30am daily making it an easy choice. I figured that we could pop into Turtle Tower next door if it turned out to be a bust. Luckily, no need to move on, we turned out to be quite happy with our breakfast of champions.

#1 Phở Đặc Biệt for each of us, small for me, and large for him. To my eye, the small was bigger than other places serve, and the large was gargantuan. Pho 2000 has a fresh rice noodle option . . . ask for “fat noodle” shown as Hofun (Large/Fat Noodle), 75¢ on the Side Orders section of the menu.

R asked for guidance on tackling his bowl of pho and use of the herb plate and table condiments. I reiterated “no condiments dumped in the soup stock” other than steeping a slice of fresh jalapeño chile and the occasional squeeze of lime. I showed him how to add the bean sprouts, tucking them under the mass of noodles to wilt them below the surface of the hot stock, and tugged the fresh basil leaves off the stem then tore them to release their fragrance into the soup. In a small side dish I mixed a small scoop of chile paste with fish sauce and added a squeeze of lime. I explained that this was for dipping the meats and that others might use sriracha, hoisin or other available condiments to suit their own tastes.

The clean and beefy stock had less mineral influence and more fragrance from star anise and sweet brown spices but not in an overpowering way. Dissolved collagen gave this stock a bit more heft and a silken texture. The fresh rice noodles were a shade chewier than Turtle Tower’s and not as slippery in the mouth. Meats were all good quality, just right firmness on the tendon and subtle seasoning on the well-done flank though the tai (rare steak) slipped too far down into the stock and cooked too fast.

I liked this as much as the starkly Northern-style pho next door at Turtle Tower.
If you need fresh sprouts and herbs with your bowl and a note of sweet spices in the beef stock, check out Pho 2000.

Pho 2000
637 Larkin St
San Francisco
Monday – Saturday: 8:30 AM – 8:30 PM
Sunday: 8:30 AM – 7:30 PM

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  1. Hmmm, sounds good. Thanks for the heads up. And you're eating like the Vietnamese having pho for breakfast. Funny, I associate pho with lunch because it's such a big meal but it's the standard breakfast in Vietnam.

    3 Replies
    1. re: singleguychef

      I love soup for breakfast, especially noodles. I've often gone to Turtle Tower for the morning meal, I think it opens at 9am. The earlier opening time at Pho 2000 makes it easy to park right in front before the metered time starts. Pho places serve so fast, makes me think it's a point of pride how quickly they can land a bowl on the table.

      Do you have any favorite pho for breakfast places?

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        TT opens at 8:30 as well. And yes one of my favourite breakfasts ever is Pho ga.

      2. re: singleguychef

        On my first trip to Shanghai in 1992 I breakfasted in the dining room of the hotel where I was staying. There were only two items on the menu I cold read, xiao long bao and noodle soup, so I had then on alternate mornings for three weeks running.

        Anyway, there's a saying that health lies in eating like a King at breakfast, a bourgeous at lunch and a peasant at dinner.

      3. I always get Tai on the side. Control the cooking yourself :)

        1 Reply
        1. re: drewskiSF

          Yes, absolutely. I usually order it that way myself but got distracted by my guest. Luckily I managed to ask for the fresh rice noodles!

        2. Condiments at the side? Everywhere I saw locals in Vietnam (at local joints across the south), everyone dumped herbs, chilli, lime, soy and fish sauce straight into the broth. Much less than I did, but all the same ... Am I missing some rule of etiquette?

          1 Reply
          1. re: mugen

            No, not a violation of etiquette but differences in regional custom and my own personal preference to taste the unsullied subtlety of a well-made soup stock.

            These threads shed more light.

          2. i forgot about this post until a late morning search turned it up. after this past week's gorgeous weather was marred for me by my first ever real bout of seasonal allergies in my lifetime, which, being my first time around, turned me into a big cry baby from lack of experience, i decided that today's relatively cooler weather and my labored breathing called for a soothing bowl of pho.

            i got the #1 dac biet as well, with the fresh noodles and remembered to order the rare meat on the side, which i always forget to do. won't forget to do so again, because there's such a difference in texture when you're in control! i found the noodles to be similar in texture to turtle tower's. i've read some people note that the broth is a bit sweet, but i didn't find that to be the case. i thought the spice was balanced, for southern-style pho. i've been avoiding this style for a long time because i don't like overly assertive star anise. i liked the textures of the cooked meats, and the sprouts were fresh and firm, unblemished and clean. basil sprigs were equally fresh and bright.

            it just seemed like a quality bowl, and i'm glad i came across this post again so i remembered to ask for the fresh noodles, nice and silky compared to the stodgy clumped mess you often encounter elsewhere. i think i came here once before to try their bun bo hue, but it must not have registered as memorable. but when i want sprouts and herbs in my pho, it's good to know this is here, and i felt so much more like myself after eating this bowl.

            1 Reply
            1. re: augustiner

              A steaming bowl of pho, especially one as good as this, sounds like just the ticket for an allergy-suffering cry baby. :)

              This has been a bad allergy season for me too. I don't like too much star anise either, but when winter's cold comes around, you'll be seeking it out somewhere else for it's anti-influenza virus properties. Maybe we should start a thread on food as medicine!

              Would you have happened to notice the progress on Turtle Tower's move? Was supposed to re-open last month.

            2. I had the pho ga here, seeing as TT is closed until it reopens further up on Larkin. I am sorry to say it does not hold up to TT's Pho Ga. It was a bit insipid and all the condiments in the world could not save it.

              5 Replies
              1. re: osho

                I'm sorry to hear that too. But in some ways not surprised. A good version of pho ga seems harder to find. It's a more transparent dish with less room for mistakes.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Personally I can't wait for TT to open. I have truly missed the pho ga there. And the SOMA branch does not cut it for me.

                  1. re: osho

                    Please keep an eye on that for us and let us know when TT reopens.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      There was a private event going on in the new location this afternoon, so they might be getting real close