So last summer, despite the heat wave, the minute I said, "Filet mignon," lil' sis decided she wanted some too. I happened to catch Henry Chan's Food Videos online and asked if he wanted to join us for dinner. He said no because he was planning to go to the gym. When we were halfway to the restaurant, he called and said he was going to come after all. Ha! I think it was the mention of filet mignon that did it. ;)
Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) is such a staple of Vietnamese cuisine. We eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With pho restaurants everywhere, on this stretch of Garvey Avenue I can think of half a dozen, how does a restaurant stand out from the rest?
Step up the ingredients, of course. There are places that tout no MSG in their broth. Places that are known for using fresh, not dried, noodles. And now places that offer filet mignon beef slices.
Since it was during the summer heat wave, I opted for sinh to dau xanh rau ma (Vietnamese mung bean and pennywort shake) for $2.25. Both mung bean and pennywort are known to have "cooling" properties. Rau Ma (Vietnamese Pennywort Juice) is one of my favorite drinks so I was curious how the restaurant would turn it into a milk shake. Well, apparently the pennywort shake is simply blended with ice, but the pennywort mung bean shake is thicker and more milk shake-like. I loved it, but then I love both pennywort and mung bean. Lil' sis and Henry did not and the looks on their faces when they tried my drink were priceless. Lil' sis even spat it out. Just be forewarned that this might not be for you.
We all ordered the pho dac biet (Vietnamese beef noodle soup special), which had filet rare steak, well-done flank, brisket, tendon, and tripe for $5.75. I suggest adding the extra 50 cents for a large bowl.
Actually, unlike other restaurants that offer regular and filet mignon slices, all of the pho thinly sliced beef options here are filet mignon.
I prefer to order the filet mignon on the side as it gets over cooked in the hot soup by the time it arrives at the table. Just look at the beauty of that meat. It's not sliced as thick as at Pho Thanh Lich Vietnamese Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon), but still thick enough to appreciate the tenderness of the meat. And Pho Huynh only offers the filet mignon minced in their pho Bac (Northern-style).
Add your filet mignon into the broth so it gently cooks. The broth here is a little heavy on the cinnamon side, but if you like cinnamon as much as I do, then you'll like it too.
On another visit with my brother and his wife, I had forgotten to tell the waiter to put the filet mignon on the side. As you can see, the filet mignon got lost amidst all the other meats so the pho didn't taste nearly as special. Also, on this visit, the broth seemed greasier than my first visit.
His wife ordered the pho Bac for $6. Northern-style pho usually has slightly wider, softer fresh rice noodles. The meat is minced and sparse since the North is traditionally not as abundant as the South. And if you're a true Northern purist, you also don't add bean sprouts or basil, or Sriracha or hoisin sauce. Just a bit of green onion, onions, and cilantro. Maybe you squeeze in a tiny bit of lime.
Southern-style is the pho most restaurants serve in America. Thinner, slightly chewy noodles. A whole variety of beef offerings. A plate of basil, bean sprouts, limes, and sawtooth herb, if you're lucky. Doused with Sriracha and hoisin sauce.
On another visit with cousin Q, his younger brother, his older brother and his wife, I opted for just pho tai sach (Vietnamese beef noodle soup with filet rare steak and tripe) for $5.50. This time, I remembered to order the filet mignon on the side.
Oh, this was lovely. No other meats to compete with the taste. Just pure tender beefiness. This was the regular-sized bowl, and honestly, just add that 50 cents for a large. You'll appreciate it more.
I didn't let the meat overcook, and started eating when it was still slightly rare.
I ordered a soda sua hot ga (Vietnamese condensed milk and egg soda) for $2. Think of it as the Vietnamese version of an orange Julius, minus the orange. Creamy, slightly eggy, and carbonated.
I was eyeing another table that ordered rice plates. The food came out on huge platters. The Com Do Ga Ro Ti (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken with Red Rice) looked so good that I couldn't stop thinking about it for days. I talked lil' sis into coming with me a few days later.
We ordered Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls) for $4.50. These were just ordinary. They were hot and crisp, but the filling was rather bland. Plus, I've come to expect them made the traditional Vietnamese way, wrapped and fried in rice paper, not Chinese egg roll wrappers.
The rice plates came with a bowl of broth soup with a spare rib.
Finally, the dish I was salivating over. The Cornish game hen was crispy golden and came with red rice and pickles. This huge platter for $5.50.
Look at that marvelous crispy skin. The red rice was colored from annatto seed and didn't taste as spectacular as it looked. Lil' sis and I prefer the Com Do Ca Chua (Vietnamese Tomato Paste Red Rice) at Dong Nguyen Restaurant - Alhambra.
We ordered the com tam dac biet (Vietnamese special broken rice platter), which came with Tom Tau Hu Ky (Vietnamese Shrimp Paste Wrapped in Bean Curd Skin), Chinese sausage, shredded pork skin, Cha Trung (Vietnamese Steamed Egg Omelet), and pork chop for $6.75.
The rice was a bit dry and the pork chop not nearly as flavorful or tender as at Com Tam Thuan Kieu - San Gabriel (Valley Blvd.).
Overall, I'd have to stick with my maxim - order what the restaurant names itself after. Order the pho, and remember to ask for the filet mignon on the side.
And thanks again to WC reader Yum Cha Girl for the tip!
Who else ate at Pho Filet?
Gourmet Pigs blogged about our first meeting.
Other filet mignon pho restaurants:
Pho Huynh Vietnamese Restaurant - South El Monte
Pho Thang Long Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Pho Thanh Lich Vietnamese Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Pho Filet Vietnamese Restaurant
9463 E. Garvey Ave., Unit #A
South El Monte, CA 91733
8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
1 year ago today, ramen at Santouka - Los Angeles (Mar Vista).
2 years ago today, Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant - San Gabriel.