Where to find Miami’s best pho

By Emily Codik, Miami New Times

Nothing ruins a meal like qualifying its authenticity. You know the drill: You slurp down a big bowl of aromatic pho, you really enjoy it, and then your brain kicks into gear. It didn’t take you to the streets of Saigon or Hanoi. You have become the Regina George of food, someone who blights a lover by saying things like, “Yes, I love you, but…”

Oak Tavern’s pho. Photo by Emily Codik

What makes one food more legitimate than another? Is it the cook’s nationality, the waiter’s birthplace, or the language printed on the menu?

In reality, none of those things really matters. The only factor that counts is taste.

So I recently set out to find Miami’s best pho — a noodle soup great because of its flavor and not its immigration status. A good pho hinges on the broth, a clear liquid produced by beef bones, fish sauce, and spices such as cinnamon and star anise. Served with rice noodles, the stock pairs with various cuts of beef and accompaniments such as Thai basil, chilies, and lime.

My quest began in Miami Lakes and finished at a 30-year-old restaurant in Little Havana. Throughout this traffic-battered journey, there was only one rule:

No authenticity talk allowed.

4. Green Papaya (16893 NW 67th Ave., Miami Lakes; 305-826-5216; greenpapayasouthflorida.webs.com . Lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.): At Green Papaya in Miami Lakes, emerald curtains and bamboo sticks cover the dining room’s windows, shielding patrons from the outside world, which — in this case — is a seedy strip-mall parking lot. Pho goes by two names here: special beef soup or the less poetic number eight. It’s a fine soup, built upon a tawny, rosy broth that’s garnished with generous sprigs of cilantro. Thin rice noodles tangle around floating bits of red onion, scallions, and beef. Bean sprouts, lime, and mint ride alongside.

There are a few downers to this bowl, though. The mint arrives wilted. The meat boasts the slightly sour flavor of not-so-great beef. It’s a nice meal for $8.95. But Green Papaya’s best soup is not pho; it’s bun bo Hue. This spicy, reddish soup, scented boldly with lemongrass and pork, employs thin, round noodles instead of the flat variety used in pho. Globs of orange oil glide across its fiery surface.

The restaurant’s pho is good; the bun bo Hue ($8.95) rushes at you with flavor.

3. Oak Tavern (35 NE 40th St., Miami; 786-391-1818; oaktavernmiami.com . Pho special Thursday 6 to 10:30 p.m.): Purists would never add sriracha and hoisin sauce to pho — a balanced broth shouldn’t need such additions. But at Oak Tavern, the Design District restaurant owned by David Bracha and helmed by Curtis Rhodes, the pho needs a bit of both.

Rhodes offers pho with papaya salad for $18 as a Thursday-night special. To make his broth, he roasts beef bones and white onions until their surfaces are charred and burnt. He shoves the mixture into a stock pot, throws in short ribs, and simmers it all for five hours.

The result is a chestnut-tinged broth, which he crowns with cilantro, scallions, and red and green chilies. The short ribs, tender and delicious, fall apart with the poke of a chopstick. The dish doesn’t come with any of the usual accompaniments; it arrives only with the two sauces sloshed in tiny tin cups. “I try to keep it straightforward for our clientele,” Rhodes says.

Oak Tavern’s pho tastes best after a heavy hit of sriracha and hoisin. The restaurant’s greatest strength is its succulent beef, but its broth lacks salt.

Read the full article by Emily Codik from Miami New Times.

Báo Người Việt hoan nghênh quý vị độc giả đóng góp và trao đổi ý kiến. Chúng tôi xin quý vị theo một số quy tắc sau đây:

Tôn trọng sự thật.
Tôn trọng các quan điểm bất đồng.
Dùng ngôn ngữ lễ độ, tương kính.
Không cổ võ độc tài phản dân chủ.
Không cổ động bạo lực và óc kỳ thị.
Không vi phạm đời tư, không mạ lỵ cá nhân cũng như tập thể.

Tòa soạn sẽ từ chối đăng tải các ý kiến không theo những quy tắc trên.

Xin quý vị dùng chữ Việt có đánh dấu đầy đủ. Những thư viết không dấu có thể bị từ chối vì dễ gây hiểu lầm cho người đọc. Tòa soạn có thể hiệu đính lời văn nhưng không thay đổi ý kiến của độc giả, và sẽ không đăng các bức thư chỉ lập lại ý kiến đã nhiều người viết. Việc đăng tải các bức thư không có nghĩa báo Người Việt đồng ý với tác giả.

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