The longest relationship I had in the six years I lived in Washington, D.C., involved a man with whom I exchanged just a few dozen words.
Once a week, without fail, I would show up at Pho 75 in Arlington, Virginia, where at the front of the line, I would tell my man how big a table I needed, he would gesture toward a spot and that would be it. (Sometimes, he took orders, which might elicit the occasional “You want Number 15 — large or small?” Exciting stuff, I tell you.)
I went back to Pho 75 every week not because of the guy, of course, but rather the beef noodle soup that they serve, which is consistently the stuff that my most mouthwatering, heart-pounding, bordering-on-porn dreams are made of.
The noodles are always perfectly cooked; the beef lovely and tender. But the broth, oh, that broth. (And the stirrings I feel whenever I think of it.) Made from simmering oxtails, cinnamon, star anise, onions and fennel seeds for hours, that soup is so succulent and hearty it could be a meal all on its own.
In the six years since I left D.C. for New York, I’ve been on a mission to find something comparable — to no avail. Sometimes it was the noodles or the beef that failed to measure up but all too often, the problem lay with the soups — they were bland, too sweet or not sweet enough.
After six years of pho-hopping in New York City, however, I’m happy to report that I’ve finally found a version that’s not bad.
Pho Grand in Manhattan’s Chinatown — it’s almost worth cheating on my D.C. man for.