Pho Fight in Phoenix: Pho Thanh vs. Da Vang
The Setup: Da Vang is the sort of restaurant we could picture Anthony Bourdain walking into and being totally stoked. It's basic, and frankly underwhelming, located in a small strip mall off 19th Avenue and Campbell. It doesn't look like much, and, in fact, even looks sort of questionable with its den-like ambiance and obviously from the 80's table and chair sets, but the clientele should pretty much say it all. If you're up for authentic Vietnamese eats, go where the Vietnamese go, order what they do and enjoy.
The Good: We've frequented pho places all over the Valley and the rare beef in Da Vang's Pho Tai is easily the most moist and well-prepared of them all. We usually try to save a few pieces for the carryout bowl, but it was gone before we knew it. The noodles were also well executed. We've certainly had our fair share of pho that centered around a blob of overcooked noodles, and its nice to feel a little bit of texture in noodles--after all, not everything should melt in your mouth.
The Bad: Their Pho Tai logically uses beef broth, but a friend of ours ordered their pho with the pork broth and it was definitely the better way to go. Both were flavorful, but we think their Pho Tai substituted with the pork broth would have really put it over the top. Plus, we like more veggies in our pho than Da Vang provided.
And the winner is . . .
Da Vang. If you're looking for a spot to introduce a friend to pho, Pho Thanh is definitely less intimidating in terms of ambiance. However, Da Vang's flavorful broth and delectably moist rare beef make for a better pho eating experience. The clumped noodles and oily base at Pho Thanh set it back just enough for Da Vang to edge out the competition.