I’ve become a bit of a phôfessional these days, a sort of human vaccuum for any and all phô that I come across. Over the past year or so, I’ve collected a true preference for a couple of specific phôs in Paris. Or, dare I say… phî. So if you want the best phô in Paris, better head to one of these three places. I think I will add to this article as more worthy Vietnamese noodle-soup-eating experiences happen, so consider this your definitive guide to all of the best phô in Paris. I’m just kidding about the word phî, bî the way.
Before we begin, a bit of information about this glorious noodle soup that is perfect for any season, emotional state, day of the week, hangover or cold. Originally from Vietnam, but now quite popular in many cities throughout the world, phô is a soup comprised of noodles, broth, lots of herbs, and most commonly beef. Sometimes chicken is used instead, and there’s vegetarian versions as well. The Vietnamese eat it at any time of day, which I respect because I don’t like to be confined to eating dinner food at dinner time. Often you will find hot pepper or lime, hoisin sauce, and / or sriracha available as additives into your phô as well.
A good phô is like a snowflake, a curry, or an Italian red sauce. Each is unique and slightly different, but all are beautiful creations made from all of the best stuff this world has to offer. If you’re lucky, your phô will contain beef cartilage balls made from tendons, sometimes refered to as Vietnamese meatballs. That is my favorite, and contrasts nicely with the sliced beef which is usually added into the soup raw, and cooked from the hot broth. I feel like I’m writing a love letter to phô right now, and am going to take a moment to order some to my doorstep for when I finish this post.
*Be right back.*
So, here are my favorite three places to get phô, and where I would argue are currently serving the best phô in Paris.
1. Drapeau de la Fidelite, Paris 15
Personally I wish I lived closer to this restaurant, because I would come here several times per week. There are many best parts of this restaurant; the ambiance, the price, and the chef. The phô is quite good; sweeter than most with chunks of ground beef in leu of the tendon balls, and lots of flavor in the bouillon, but what makes your visit here is the experience. The chef and owner has had the place for 30 years or so, but before that he was a professor of philosophy in Vietnam, so you can understand why the restaurant is packed with newspapers, books, and little eccentricities all over the place. Prices don’t seem to have gone up since the invention of the internet, which means wine is two bucks, and all of the plates are just $6. So go on down, grab a piping hot bowl of soup or sauteed beef or even bolognaise (random), and then afterwards enjoy a coffee and a newspaper while you eat your complimentary mandarin orange for dessert. 21 Rue Copreaux, 75015 Paris.
2. Aname, Paris 17 & 18
Here you’ll find quite a high price for a phô, about 14 bucks, but what you get alongside is a super-classy atmosphere and a seriously big portion of seriously high quality phô. The chef of this restaurant is half French and half Vietnamese, so he brings a bit of French expertise to traditional Vietnamese cuisine. There is no MSG in his dishes, and everything is made in house, including the nems (spring rolls), which are the best I’ve had in Paris. His other dishes, such as sauteed beef and noodles or bo bun are also really good, and the wine and beer selection is good as well, though slightly pricey. Overall, this is a nicer restaurant that completely skips over the takeout / street food aspect of Vietnamese food and brings you straight to a chic ambiance with nice lighting, good music, and friendly (albeit slow) service. 101 Rue Nollet, 75017 Paris, and 57 Rue Caulaincourt, 75018 Paris.
3. Phô Banh Cuon 14, Paris 13
As the less than creative and geographically inaccurate name would suggest, this restaurant is not about bells and whistles. It’s about pho, and it’s located in the 13th arrondissement. What this restaurant is about, is the best phô I’ve found here in Paris. The flavor you find in this phô is unparalleled to any others in this city. This restaurant is the real deal, located in the heart of Paris’ Asian enclave and loud, chaotic and insanely busy, with a line out the door despite being sandwiched directly in between about twenty other phô restaurants. The big bowl of beef phô, complete with sliced beef, beef tendon balls, and tripe (though you can omit it if you want), will set you back almost ten bucks, but it’s some of the best ten bucks you can spend in the neighborhood. The line out the door keeps moving and you’ll get seated quickly, though you’ll be expected to place your order basically right away as well. What this restaurant lacks in finesse and ambiance, they make up for in efficiency and damn good soup. 129 Avenue de Choisy, 75013 Paris.
Of course, you’ve also got a couple other options. The streets of Paris are absolutely littered with Vietnamese restaurants, far more than I’d ever seen in New York. So while you can get a meal pretty much anywhere, you can also head to Tang Fréres, and buy the fixings to make your own. Pictured below are the beef tendon balls, which I think are crucial to a good phô. You can find all of the herbs and noodles, hoisin sauce, and hot peppers you need there. I think this is an excellent meal that you can store in the cabinet and in the freezer, and save for a rainy night at home. This is my recipe for a quick, no-cook version, and you can check out Woks of Life (my favorite Asian cuisine food blog) for a true phô recipe. Holy cow am I hungry after writing this, I love phô so much. 48 Avenue d’Ivry, 75013 Paris.