The Ultimate Pho Ranking:
By QUYNH (STEPHANIE) BUI | November 10, 2019
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As a Vietnamese, being away from home is rough. My foodie soul misses all the Vietnamese delicacies that I know I won’t find exact replicas of. Still, that fear did not stop me from embarking on a 2-month long adventure to determine the best Phở (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) place in town.
#1: Pho King (Amsterdam Centrum)
The King is the King. This ‘hole-in-the-wall’ Phở restaurant has brought me solace and relief since I moved to Amsterdam. The broth was so authentic and profoundly flavorful that I thought I was back in Vietnam for a second. Their Phở was intensely beefy but not too overwhelming, with all the flavors coming together in perfect harmony. Worth noting is that the restaurant might appear to be a little tacky as it’s located in an alley next to a coffee shop. But, the Phở is so good that it’s worth inhaling (some) weed smoke; it is that Phở-king good!
However, the noodles here are slightly too big and don’t soak up the broth as much as I’d like. This minor flaw does not discount the genuinely homey taste that they offer. Even though it is not the most economical option out there (priced at approx. €13 a bowl), I still promise that it is worth a try! Remember to come early and in small groups because the restaurant cannot accommodate a large crowd. Phở King also has other options (spring rolls and bánh mì) on the menu, but their almost authentic Phở is definitely a must!
These two Phở places are tied for second place since; even though their Phở styles are completely distinctive, they are also equally delicious. I previously tried the Spicy Phở challenge at O Mai, but their ordinary Phở is quite tasty and reasonably authentic. The Phở broth is light – some might even say slightly bland – yet still warms you up from the core. That, accompanied with the restaurant’s prime location near Waterlooplein station and decorations, is an absolute win. They also have the most student-friendly price tag starting at €10 a bowl, so it’s for anyone who simply wants a near-authentic experience without breaking the bank. O Mai also offers a diverse range of other Vietnamese dishes (the waiter recommended “Hu Tieu Kho”), so it is worth the hype.
Saigon Caphe, on the other hand, serves a more oily broth base with a hint of Chinese food influence. While O Mai leans more on the northern Phở side, Saigon Caphe is undoubtedly southern with its sweeter and stronger flavors. Centrally located right in Centraal Station, Saigon Caphe might be a perfect dinner spot before you head out for an awesome night or return from a tiring day. Depending on your preference, either of these restaurants will unquestionably satisfy your craving for Vietnamese food.
#3: Miss Saigon (Amsterdam West)
Out of all the Phở locations on my quest, Miss Saigon has definitely made me feel the most at home. Their Phở is quite standard with a light broth but not lacking in flavor. It’s unique atmosphere actually reminded me so much of my hometown; I couldn’t help but to feel jolly while indulging in a good ol’ hot Phở bowl, despite it being a rainy day. Their Phở bowl had a considerable amount of bean sprouts, spring onions and red onions, which was much appreciated because it alleviated the heaviness. But, if you are not a fan of bean sprouts, make sure to tell them ahead of time. As this is a perfect location for large groups and date nights, Miss Saigon lies more on the pricier side – but I can guarantee that you won’t regret your decision!
#4: Sen Việt (Amsterdam West) (passable)
This slightly Chinese-themed Vietnamese restaurant, in my humble opinion, has the best noodles as they are soft and chewy with the perfect width – almost identical to the ones in Vietnam. However, since I’m a big fan of the northern Phở, their southern-centric Phở broth was almost too sweet for my appetite and lacked the essential savory. Sen Viet certainly got the ‘meh’ reaction from me with its completely acceptable yet uninspired Phở.
Locals’ Favorites (not necessarily mine):
Conveniently located in the touristy Albert Cuyp Market, Phở 91 captured my attention due to its overwhelming number of Google reviews. This little restaurant was packed with non-Asian diners as they offered a wide variety of dishes.
Truth be told, their Phở was very underwhelming – the broth still passed as ‘practically authentic’ but missed the much-needed umami subtleties, and the noodles were not of the best quality. Although I personally wouldn’t choose to eat Phở here, Phở 91’s classy yet questionable take on Vietnamese food has gained popularity among travelers.
Phở Viet was also a hit among the locals, as inferred from the number of Thuisbezorgd orders they received within the 30 minutes I was there.
Owned by Chinese-Vietnamese, their Phở had a particular taste and a positive first impression. However, as I made my way through the Phở bowl, it was quite bland and not worth finishing (but I paid €13, so I felt obligated to). In retrospect, Phở didn’t feel like their strong suit, so I suppose their non-Phở options will carry more weight for their popularity.
#6: Little Saigon (Amsterdam Centrum, Chinatown):
When I came into the restaurant, it was a full house, so my expectations were raised. Contradictory to my excitement, Phở is definitely not something Little Saigon can boast about. Although it was a pleasant experience, their Phở missed the essence of Vietnamese food and felt foreign to my palate (which may have just been their attempt to accommodate locals’ taste). Since a lot of people ordered their Banh mi (another Vietnamese staple), I will soon make my return to see whether Little Saigon can dispute their position.
Hanoi Old Quarter is mostly known for its absolutely delicious Bun Cha (grilled meat with vermicelli) – so their Phở might not have showcased the highlights of what they can offer. Take a look at their other northern specialties, and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Welcome Vietnamese Restaurant Phở was also in a similar position. I would happily recommend going for a more Vietnamese-styled standard dinner banquet (rice, soup, meat dish) here, definitely not for their Phở.
#8: Phở Long: not recommended
Although it has a decent ranking on Google, I would easily skip this place because their Phở had very little in common with my beloved national dish. From my distant experience in 2018 with this place, I can still clearly recall the sad and disappointing impact it left on me; I thought this was all the Vietnamese food Amsterdam had on its table, which obviously wasn’t the case. I haven’t tried their other dishes so I cannot make an ultimate judgment, but their Phở is conclusively not the way to go.
If you have any suggestions or opinions on these restaurants, or if you want to recommend us to try out new places, DM us @the.magazine.ams.
*Disclaimer: The opinion of the author does not represent the Magazine’s opinion.
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