Pho is pho-nomenal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You better beef-lieve it.
Pho Ao Sen has an extensive selection of Viet-noms. Located in the International District, it’s a relatively quick 12-minute drive from PHS, which is further mitigated by the restaurant’s two parking lots.
As soon as you sit down, you get a cup of weak hot tea or cold water, which you can supplement with slightly-overly-iced-and-priced drinks. These range from brown Vietnamese coffee, to bright orange Thai iced tea, to rainbow three-bean jelly drink, to a pale murky mixture of club soda with two egg yolks and condensed milk, dubbed Vietnamese egg nog and $4.95, while the rest are $3.75. Does that last one still count as a Viet-nom? Regardless, with two drinks and a bowl of soup, you’ll stay hydrated!
Pho is the main event here, and the menu offers over twenty varieties, with different combinations of beef or chicken. For starters, get the sliced eye round steak, which you can order raw on the side and control doneness when you cook it in the hot broth, and the tender slices of brisket. Flank, tendon, tripe, peppery beef meatballs and chicken are also available. The broth is, of course, beautifully beefy, well salted and spiced — just as good as it smells. Make sure to doctor it with, at the very least, lime and rip up some of the pristine herbs they offer with every bowl.
Since pho is mostly liquid and rice noodles, you’re basically eating nothing and should order appetizers! Egg rolls come with home-made fish sauce to dip, lettuce, pickled daikon and carrots and the biggest, most beautiful leaves of thai basil and mint that you’ll ever see. Spring rolls are fresh and crisp, and come elegantly stacked, with a fancy swirl of sriracha on the plate to complement the peanut sauce.
Pho Ao Sen may have the popular Vietnamese beef noodle soup dish in its name, and pho does lend itself to great puns, but don’t discount the other southern Vietnamese dishes on the menu. The House Special Combo Plate comes with everything for $13.95: broken rice (just normal rice but with cute broken grains), grilled pork chop and charbroiled pork topped with green onions and crunchy fried garlic, perfectly-cooked shrimp in a sweet marinade and pickled thick strips of daikon and carrot. Personally, I mostly ignore the mysterious bland noodle-mushroom-omelette slice and shredded pork skin, the latter of which comes off as strangely dusty but also chewy but also surprisingly much better than it sounds in a separate dish, Rice Vermicelli with Coconut Milk Concoction. Try that for something lighter than a rice plate, or slurp a bowl of bun, cold tossed mixed rice vermicelli noodles, shredded lettuce, herbs, fish sauce and some combination of proteins.