What’s better than one Pho Filet? Pho Filet 2 debuts

That's filet mignon in them thar noodles.
(Jonathan Gold/Los Angeles Times)

You can get pho pretty much anywhere in Los Angeles County now, including parts of Silver Lake, the Westside and the San Fernando Valley that you would swear never saw pho before. Koreatown offers 24-hour pho, which means that you can eat Vietnamese beef noodle soup at 3:30 in the morning if you are so inclined.

But for the last several years, pho connoisseurs have known that the best pho parlors this side of Little Saigon have tended to cluster along an unlovely stretch of Garvey Avenue in South El Monte, a town best-known for its unusual concentration of auto-body shops.

And although the best pho restaurant, Pho Minh, went out of business year before last, victim of either a poor strip-mall location or the excessive purity of its broth, South El Monte was still a great place to go for pho, whether to the bustling Pho Huynh, the Kobe-beef-serving Pho Hai . . . and especially to Pho Filet, whose specialty is a version of Hanoi-style pho bac, a minimalist soup highlighted by a sprinkling of fresh ginger and a largish hunk of soft, bloody filet mignon hacked up like a guy who had lost a razor fight. Pho bac is pretty different from jazzy, amped-up Saigon pho – it’s quieter, less dependent on the flavors of caramelization, and uncluttered by the half-dozen meats common in southern-style pho. When I am asked to name my favorite pho in Los Angeles, Pho Filet is always right at the top of the list.


Now there is Pho Filet 2, in the former location of the catfish specialist Phong Dinh, which has moved a few minutes north. Unless you live in Monterey Park, Rosemead isn’t really all that much more convenient than South El Monte, but the newer Pho Filet seems like a step up, a larger, busier place with a long menu of Vietnamese specialties that don’t happen to be pho – and perhaps most important, a shorter wait on weekends. The com tam, combinations of Vietnamese snacks served on big plate of chewy, broken rice are good, especially the ones involving fried shrimp cake. I suppose the vast array of bun, noodle salads, is worth checking out, and the roast Cornish hen with red rice seems popular.

But this time of year, when the evening temperatures dip into the 40s, it is hard to get away from the signature pho bac, with its soft rice noodles, bloody filet and soothing, gingery broth. The accompanying greens plate is abundant, with not only fresh basil and the requisite mountain of bean sprouts, but also rau ram and sawtooth herb to stir into the broth if that’s your thing. And you can get an avocado shake.

Pho Filet 2, 2643 San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead, (626) 280-1899.


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