Thursday, November 02, 2006

Phở Lynn

One of the things I absolutely love about this state- and Silicon Valley in particular- is the vast amount of incredible ethnic cuisine that can be found. Recently I began a quest to find a good phở place near me in San Jose. I knew a few spots in Mountain View, but wanted something I could zip to when a phở craving hit.

For the uninitiated, phở is a traditional Vietnamese soup, consisting of noodles in a clear broth made from beef, star anise, and ginger (although there are variations). You select different cuts of beef (or sometimes shellfish or meatballs, although beef is the norm) that are served rare in the hot soup and cook while you are eating. On the side is a dish of fresh herbs like sweet basil or cilantro, bean sprouts, lime, and chiles. One usually tops the dish with provided hoisin or Vietnamese hot sauce.

I arrived early for the 11am lunch opening, but that was okay, since it gave me time to discover a restaurant supply store a few buildings down. Bulk dairy! Bulk chocolate! Bulk baking supplies! All at happy student friendly prices.

After drooling over a massive stock pot and some gorgeous boning knives, I headed back to Phở Lynn. I was prepared for disappointment, honestly, because this was San Carlos St in San Jose, and there was no mention of Phở Lynn on Yelp (a somewhat trusted resource for me).

The nicely accented dining area smelled strongly of antiseptic when I first walked in, a bit offputting, but I figured it was because the place had literally just opened for lunch. Sure enough, by the time I left the smell of cooking and incense had comfortably wiped out the antiseptic odor.

I ordered a small phở (trust me, you always want a size small! Phở portion sizes are incredibly massive)my usual way, with beef, flank, and brisket. The brisket pieces tend to be a bit fatty, as does the flank depending on your restaurant. Tripe and tendon are also popular choices, and I've hear many good things about the former. I intend to give them both a try next time. :)

In addition to the phở, I ordered an appetizer of fried quail, which is the first picture above. It was served quickly, with lime and a side of dipping salts, and was absolutely incredible. Hot, sweet, and crispy, it was the perfect starter, even though you really don't need additions with phở. (Seriously, HUGE portions!) I knew I'd be writing up this review though, so I thought I might as well order it. I'm glad I did.

The pho itself was everything it should be-fragrant with onions and beef, and just the right amount of seasoning. The noodles were perfect, and the side condiments so very fresh. The help at Phở Lynn was friendly, fast, and left me feeling welcome and comfortable. I'm thrilled that there is a great Vietnamese place just a few block from me, and that it more than fits my budget as well!

A little heartwarming bonus for me personally was the simple Buddhist altar tucked under a counter at the front of the store. Gently spiraling incense, candles, and a cup of very dark Vietnamese espresso gave the humble shrine a homey feel; it was comforting indeed.

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