Give Me a Bone: Oxtail Pho at Pho Ga So 1

Categories: On the Menu

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Pho duoi bo, be thui (oxtail pho with side of veal) at Pho Ga So 1
There's something about chewing on a bone that's infinitely satisfying. That's what I was thinking when, after watching my friend get her hands dirty while happily devouring her oxtail, I got another side order.

The waiter looked confused. "You mean you want another bowl of pho with oxtail?" He asked. I shook my head, "No, I just want the oxtail." Still confused, he asked me if I wanted it with the broth. I guess it must have been a novel concept to him, chewing on the bone. But it's the oxtail bone that gives the pho at Pho Ga So 1 (6796 Synott Rd at Bellaire) that extra something special, that edge that will keep me coming back for more.

It's ironic, because Pho Ga So 1 literally means "number one chicken pho," and here I was eating the oxtail pho. You won't find it anywhere on the menu. Instead, it's one of the dac biet, or special items scrawled on the white eraser board on display as you step into the door.

My girlfriends and I all opted for the same thing: the small oxtail and raw veal pho, pho duoi bo, be thui, for $6.95. You can order a large bowl for $7.95, and it's definitely a better deal, but since it was our first time, we were a bit tentative.

The pho came out steamy and piping hot, with one large oxtail in each bowl.

On the side, you get a plate of raw veal (the new trend in pho) that you can add to the piping hot broth to cook it. A small saucer with a hoisin ginger sauce is provided for dipping the veal and oxtail.

"How's the broth?" I asked my friends, who were busy digging in as I took pictures. "It's so smooth!" my friend exclaimed. My other friend just nodded her head and made vague "mmm" sounds, evidently enjoying her bowl.

I didn't know what "smooth" meant until I took my first sip, and then I understood. It's hard to describe, but the broth had this soft quality. It was deep with flavor, but unlike some places that use too much star anise or ginger, which can give the broth a jarring quality, this broth was rich with the essence of the oxtail bone, sweet with the natural goodness of a well-made beef-based stock - without MSG.

I can taste the subtle differences because I always eat my pho without any added hoisin sauce or Sriracha. I just squeeze a bit of lime in it and dig in, and I can always tell if the pho broth is a good one, or a watered-down version with a lot of MSG added.

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Be thui (raw thinly sliced veal)
We received a generous portion of thinly sliced raw veal with each order, the veal so thin and tender it practically melted on the tongue. The oxtail was fun to eat, the meat chock full of marbling, with a smattering of tendon for some texture. A word of advice: If you're not adept with chopsticks, just pick it up with your hands. The oxtail is large and heavy, and even if you manage to pick it up with your chopsticks, it will probably fall back into the bowl and make a big splash.

The restaurant is just about a year old, so it's new, clean and large. The wooden tables still have that lacquered sheen. There are three large tables to accommodate large parties of eight or more, and at least 20 other tables for parties of two to four. Flat screen TVs (I counted five) adorned the walls, each playing something different for everyone to enjoy.

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Pho Ga So 1
The owner is a pretty lady who is also the kitchen master. "You can't tell me what's in the broth, can you?" I asked her. She gave me an enigmatic smile, shaking her head gently, as if to let me down easily. "No, but please tell your friends about us," she said. "I will," I responded, "I definitely will."



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Location Info

Pho Ga So 1

6796 Synott, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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13 comments
Nancy Safronsey Moritz
Nancy Safronsey Moritz

I just found this Pho house... the veggies were fresh .. the food pleasurably plentiful....the spring rolls awesome-- ahhh at last a nice pot of hot tea ...I have been looking for a new Pho house- they get my business and my friends business- hands down... Please go by and check them out ..

Nac1959
Nac1959

I just found this Pho restaurant...the food is good and plentiful...the veggie's that go with the Pho was  fresh .....the spring rolls awesome.. I have been looking for a new place that serves Pho.  They get my business hands down ...You could drive right by and not know they are there..behind the...used car place..at Bellaire and Synott ....

Frank Idrees
Frank Idrees

Mai, went there today. Absolutely the most delicate, savoury oxtail pho of all time. The noodles were the right proportion. No MSG. I did not use any of the usual sauces as the broth is so flavourful. Also, a very excellent tasting soda chanh. Thanks for the recommendation.Frank

Sangntran2
Sangntran2

really good. what time do they open? im willing to go for breakfast all the way from humble and go to work in downtown afterwards. sounds like it is worth it.

Richard Doll
Richard Doll

Great review, I'm going to have to try this place. And Mai, your response to TiepoloG actually made me LOL!

TiepoloG
TiepoloG

No doubt your sexiest entry yet, Mai.Chewing on a bone can be mutually satisfying.

Jay Francis
Jay Francis

I agree with you. I came across a recipe that recommended oxtail for the base because of its perfect blend of bone marrow, fat and meat and I haven't looked back. Another old school trick that really makes a difference is to roast your unpeeled shallots and ginger until black and then peel them.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

You are hard core! If you love pho, it is worth a trek, I haven't stopped thinking about it since I tried it. Their phone is 281-561-5800. They are open Sun - Thu, 9am-9pm, Fri-Sat, 9am-10pm. Enjoy!

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Richard, the best compliment you can give is to want to try something I've written about. Thanks!

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

i don't quite know how to respond. Thank you?

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Jay, Wow! You make your own pho? I'm impressed. I make it all the time but my secret is short ribs. I'm going to add oxtail next time and see what happens.

Jay Francis
Jay Francis

Mai, if you're not doing anything tonight, Thursday, May 5, a group of Chowhounds (varies in size) meets up at Cafe TH at 6:30 for Vietnamese food and conversation. I made a chocolate rum genoise last night to bring tonight.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Jay, I would be totally down with it but unfortunately I'm out of town for mom's day. I'll try to do a better job of keeping up with the HoustonCH chatter and come out with y'all one of these days.

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