Pho Sure is a Sure Bet

This West Village Vietnamese Noodle Shop Serves Up Delectable Soups and Summer Rolls



Green papaya salad with tiger shrimp, crushed peanuts and cilantro. (Rex Sakamoto/The Observer)

The encroaching winter weather has made me crave hot noodle soup, filled with delicious thin slices of brisket, beef, shin, tendon and trip tripe and topped with sprouts, basil and jalapeño peppers. This dish, known as pho, is a Vietnamese soup that has soared in popularity in the last few years in California, where I’m from. Large chains specializing in pho have cropped up all over my home state. To my dismay, when I arrived here in New York, the soup was not as popular as it was on the West Coast. Still, I was determined to find a place that makes a decent bowl of pho.

The first place I went to, Cha Pa’s Noodles and Grill, served a pho whose broth was laden with MSG, an additive used to enhance flavor. The broth is generally my favorite part of the dish, so I did not enjoy their chemically-enhanced pho.

Next I tried the Saigon Grill, but the skimpy pho was a sign that this was not the place either.

Then I tried Phosure, and was impressed.

Phosure, located on 120 Christopher St. in the West Village, served a delightful bowl—or maybe I should say bucket—of pho. For only $8, their servings are huge. I ordered the Pho Sure, which comes with rare beef, brisket and shin. When the pho arrived, I immediately started sipping the broth with the floating globules of fat separating and rejoining like amoeba. The broth tasted excellent. Instead of being muddled by additives such as MSG, the broth was fresh and savory and slightly sweet. The soup had a decent meat-to-noodle ratio. Also if you are allergic to gluten, this is the soup for you, because the silky white noodles are made of rice. While it did not come with tripe and fatty tendon-like the ones back home, it was still delicious.

In addition to the pho, I also ordered a green papaya salad and some summer rolls. The papaya salad was pickled and the papaya was julienned along with carrots. It was topped with crushed peanuts and cilantro. Mixed into the salad was a few pieces of tiger shrimp. While I enjoyed it, my dinner mate found the sweet and sour rice vinegar taste off-putting.

The summer rolls were some of the best I have ever had. Usually I opt for shrimp rolls, but this time I decided I would try chicken. Our rolls were filled with vermicelli noodles, carrots, lettuce and chicken, all wrapped up in sheets of rice paper. Normally these rolls are served cold, but this batch was served both cold and hot with a peanut dipping sauce. The contrast between the hot chicken and the cool vegetables tantalized the senses. Additionally, because these rolls were made to order the rice skins were nice and soft, a welcome change from the slightly tougher texture of rolls that have dried out waiting in the refrigerator.

After I took my head out of my bowl of pho, I noticed the nice cozy atmosphere that Pho Sure provides. In the front there are high-top tables while in the back there are booths that each have a large mirror and sconce on the wall. On another wall they had an Asian-influenced, pop art-esque painting that featured the same picture of a seated girl painted several times in different colors.

As I do with most food that I enjoy, I overate. But when there is a giant bowl of pho before me, there is no stopping my bad habit. Though it is not exactly the same as the pho restaurants back home, it was still a tasty experience.