Pho Saigon

By Phyllis Stein-Novack
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 16 | Posted Feb. 6, 2014

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Pennsport’s Pho Saigon offers Philadelphians a sampling of authentic Vietnamese street food.

Photo by Kathryn Poole

On the second day of Chinese New Year, I switched on PBS and watched Martha Stewart prepare pho. She filled a big stockpot with marrow bones, ox tails, fatty brisket, spices and stock and allowed it to simmer for several hours. While the soup simmered, she explained the various vegetables that are a must with pho. Bean sprouts, sliced jalapeño peppers, mint, basil and lime wedges are offered on a separate plate so guests can help themselves.

Pho is street food in Vietnam. There is a myriad of ingredients that can go into the pot. Every chef and housewife have their own versions.

Stewart’s creation made me hungry for pho. My favorite Vietnamese restaurants are Le Viet and my old friend Nam Phuong. In fact, we no longer go to Chinatown on Christmas Day. We go to Nam Phuong. I recalled seeing a Vietnamese restaurant on Columbus Boulevard. After doing some culinary sleuthing on the Internet, I found Pho Saigon.

Edward and I were greeted with a smile and were shown to a table by the window. The large, airy restaurant is a brightly lit room, and the servers answer questions with ease. Pho Saigon was filled to capacity with a marvelous cross-section of humanity: families with children; dozens of twenty-somethings; couples; and four women who brought a bottle of wine. It is BYOB.

Unlike Le Viet and Nam Phuong, Pho Saigon is truly a pho restaurant. One will not find grilled beef or pork dishes or fish although there are a few shrimp items on the menu. What one will find is tasty food at downright moderate prices.

Our server brought us a pot of hot tea and made some suggestions. Edward and I wanted to sample some cool rolls rather than spring rolls.

We began dinner with summer rolls with shrimp and pork ($3.75), barbecued pork rolls ($4) and grilled ground pork rolls ($4).

I have sampled summer rolls in numerous Vietnamese restaurants. Pho Saigon’s were larger than usual and quite plump. They were filled with vermicelli, shrimp, a basil leaf and seasoned pork that played off well with the other ingredients. I never tried the other rolls until now. We enjoyed the slightly smoky flavor or the barbecued pork in one and the grilled ground pork in the other. Dishes of peanut sauce with chopped peanuts and a dish of fish sauce came with our appetizers. Two rolls come with each order.

Noodles soups and pho are the stars of the menu although there are bun or rice vermicelli dishes as well. The soups are available in small or large sizes, which is one fine idea. I noticed many women and kids enjoying the small versions.

Edward ordered rice noodle soup with shrimp and pork ($7.50 small, $8.50 large) while I finally decided on the pho with fat brisket and rare steak ($6.90) small, $7.90 large.)

Our server brought us a platter of bean sprouts, sliced green jalapeño peppers, lime wedges, fresh mint, basil and purple Thai basil. I took one look at the small version and could not believe it was deemed small. It was a meal in a bowl.

We helped ourselves to Asian soup spoons from the condiments container and began to slurp noodles and hearty soup. Edward had never tried rice noodles before, and he immediately liked the texture. The broth was lighter than the one used to make beef pho. Tender pork slices floated in the bowl along with small shrimp, which took on a nice slightly acid flavor when a good squeeze of lime was added to the bowl.

My pho was prepared with egg noodles and a hearty beef stock. The brisket was fatty, indeed, just like I prefer it. Brisket is a tough cut of beef, and must simmer for a long time. Whoever is in the kitchen at Pho Saigon knows how to cook brisket. I suspect the rare steak, which was sliced thin for easy enjoyment, was eye round, and it too was tender. I added everything but the hot peppers to my supper.

Pho Saigon is a family restaurant where everyone can enjoy tasty nutritious food at really moderate prices. I don’t know how much it would run a family of four to eat burgers and fries at a fast food restaurant. What I do know is a family can have lunch or dinner at Pho Saigon for less money.

I could eat here once a week. Now I want to try their rice vermicelli dishes.

Three tips of the toque to Pho Saigon. 


Pho Saigon

1100 S. Columbus Blvd.


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Comments 1 - 16 of 16
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1. Marty Medals said... on Feb 6, 2014 at 04:07PM

“Well, as promised, here is a link to the facebook page South Philly Food:

I just put up the first review of a place in South Philly.
Time for you to join and put in your reviews as well.

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2. Tony said... on Feb 6, 2014 at 06:34PM

“Fair enough. Good review and a restaurant located in South Philadelphia. And not even a liquor license.

I still would like to know the rules we are playing under. Why no Chestnut Hill or Logan restaurants? Yet why South Philly restaurants only 31% of the time?”

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3. MS said... on Feb 7, 2014 at 07:09AM

“Good morning.

The owners/management of the SPR don't seem to understand that many of the readers seem not satisfied with the reviewer. However while I detest her style and flowery reviews the fact is that she doesn't work in a bubble. If the owners/management wanted to be south Philly centric they would ask for more restaurants in the area. If the owners/management wanted more direct reviews without hearing of PSN's person and family deals it would be done. I guess they don;t get it or care.

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4. BS said... on Feb 7, 2014 at 11:54AM

“Good evening.

MS doesn't seem to understand that many of the readers seem not satisfied with him. If he detests a person's style and flowery reviews the fact is that he is not required to read her reviews. If he wanted a different style he would read different reviewers in the area. If he wanted more direct reviews without hearing of PSN's person and family deals he would go somewhere else and stop taking up space here with his useless complaints. I guess he doesn't get it or care.”

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5. Phyllis Phan said... on Feb 7, 2014 at 12:04PM

“Chinese New Year Martha Stewart = Vietnamese Restaurant Review.
Don't be fooled, she probably went home and showered to get the common people stench off of her.
Edward had the shakes and needed a Martini.
They must have made her come to the office.
Marty Medals, What do I do if I don't have a FB account?”

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6. LOL said... on Feb 7, 2014 at 01:42PM

“Very funny comments - seriously wonder why the paper doesn't get a better reviewer.

Just saying.”

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7. Slim said... on Feb 7, 2014 at 02:01PM

“It's just a ramekin full of laughs in here.”

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8. Marty Medals said... on Feb 8, 2014 at 10:17AM

“No Facebook?
log onto this tumblr for reviews, food, family and fun in South Philly:”

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9. Anonymous said... on Feb 8, 2014 at 11:55PM

“Edward had never tried rice noodles before???”

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10. Edward said... on Feb 9, 2014 at 05:52PM

“Anon#9, you're right I never tried rice noodles before. I mean, yech: noodles made with mushy rice? But I was desperate since this place was a damned BYOB. So I ordered Drunken Noodles. Har har har, that'll show Phyllis I said.

Turns out the noodles were made from rice all right, but no booze! (see Enough of this damned Chinese New Year: next time we're eating at McGillans Ale House. Har har!”

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11. We're Not Stupid said... on Feb 10, 2014 at 02:33PM

“Are we all of a sudden supposed to forget about Cousin Carl and Sandy? Do you think you can write about them in a review and now expect us to pretend they don't even exist? That's really insulting to our intelligence.

If Carl offended your husband, say so. If Sandy can't take criticism in these comments, say so.”

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12. LoL said... on Feb 11, 2014 at 06:06AM

“True - for years we had to put up with the whole family tree of who drinks what and who eats what.Now nothing.

Vietnamese isn't Chinese New Year - Phylis; they all don't look alike.”

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13. MS said... on Feb 11, 2014 at 09:28AM

“To BS Chill out it's not life or death - crappy neighborhood free newspaper. I just happen to think the reviews can be better. I also read other papers too. Candidly some better and some worse.

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14. chen said... on Feb 13, 2014 at 05:09PM

“It 3 oclock and no new restaurant for china new year. Maybe snow problem? Maybe she do Laos restaurant next? China not that big ha ha.”

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15. Cousin Carl said... on Feb 13, 2014 at 05:16PM

“I can't help it if I'm good looking.”

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16. CPO3 said... on Feb 14, 2014 at 09:49AM

“Just as an FYI I like to read newspapers/internet from various places including my home in Philly. I like good reviews. This isn't a good review. She likes everything about this restaurant and only gives it a 3 out of 4 toques. While some gourmet places create food that is much more complicated would receive 4 toques. IT doesn't matter whether it's this place, a burger joint or some place on Walnut Street serving high priced food. You hold each place to the same standard - regardless of whether it's a pizza place or the old Le Bec Fin. If you like everything then 4 stars. If you like nothing then 0 stars.

Also with all the questions that arise why doesn't PSN ever respond?

Craig Laban in Inquirer does answer questions.”


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