Located on the outer rim of the San Fernando Valley in the city of Chatsworth (a town perhaps better known for actual porn than food porn) is Pho Saigon 1. This Vietnamese restaurant—which highlights the food of southern Vietnam—opened last month, but has spent the last two decades cultivating a loyal clientele. For over twenty years, chef Julie Lan dished out thousands of bowls of hu tieu nam vang (a popular Cambodian pork noodle soup) at Tet celebrations in Reseda.
Unsurprisingly, chef Lan’s devotees have long beseeched her to open up a restaurant so they didn’t have to wait an entire year to slurp up an authentic bowl of hu tieu. Twenty-six years later, they got their wish. Although they have to venture into Chatsworth for their pork noodle soup, Vietnamese beef stew, and what may be the finest pho in Southern California, it’s more than worth the trip.
Pho Saigon 1’s beef pho (or pho bo) integrates freshly ground cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, and fennel into its stock — no pre-ground seasonings are used here. The broth simmers for at least 10 hours, until it reaches a rich brown hue and is clear of any residue. The result is soup that blissfully tags your mouth with sweet, sour, bitter, and meaty flavors. The fresh spices sing with a sharp sweetness; the beef bone broth melts on your tongue with an umami kick.
Dip feathery slices of fresh filet mignon into the scalding hot soup to complete this perfect bowl of pho. Thai and Holy basils, crunchy bean sprouts, and sawtooth coriander collectively contribute to the earthy, bitter, herby, and sweet-spiciness of this heartiest of soups.
The only imperfect thing about this perfect bowl of pho is that you’ll have to drive all the way to Chatsworth to try it. Or take the Metrolink train to the Chatsworth station—it’s worth the trip.