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Saturday, July 13, 2024
HomeUnited StatesNew YorkGame Over: TPOL Found the Best Pho in NYC

Game Over: TPOL Found the Best Pho in NYC

Best Pho NYC is part of TPOL in NYC.

I am the foremost expert on pho and have written extensively about pho restaurants all across the world (see all my Pho Reviews here). One of my first posts on this blog was about how bad the pho in New York is (see Pho No written on 3/24/2014). Since then, I have been all over Manhattan, and Brooklyn, and even neighboring New Jersey, looking for international quality pho in the so-called capital of the world. There have been many disappointments, some decent choices, but nothing worthy of my Top Ten List of Pho (written 10/26/14). To show how much work I have done and to give credibility to the assertion that Sao Mai is the best pho in NYC, here is a list of all the places I have reviewed:

TPOL’s TIP: If the headline had you hooked and you don’t want to read more, know that Sao Mai is located at 203 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003.

a sign on a building

The Intro

The table had a bottle of water, sriracha, and hoisin. So far so good.

a plate with a fork and chopsticks on it

The Summer Rolls

TPOL’s TIP: Never judge the upcoming bowl by the quality of the summer rolls. I have had many great summer rolls, only to be disappointed by the pho.
a plate of food on a table a plate of food on a table

Here, the summer rolls were delicious.

The Bowl 

Delicious bowls of pho are easy to photograph. There is a balance of colors reflected in the ingredients that makes it easy to appreciate.

a bowl of soup with meat and vegetables


Well-done and great pho do not go together. The meat should be appropriately raw, as was the case below:
a bowl of soup with meat and vegetables


Crunchy fresh sprouts are an added touch to perfection.
a bowl of soup with vegetables and meat

Putting It Together

Perfect meat? Check. Jalapenos and cilantro? Check. A proportionate amount of noodles? Check.
a bowl of soup with chopsticks


The color and the aroma of the broth are tell-tale signs that the bowl is going to be an experience. However, one does not know until that first bite is consumed, until that first slurp is swallowed, and that first piece of meat is devoured.

a bowl of soup with chopsticksDisappointment 

Disappointment comes in two varieties. The traditional is being repulsed by a lack of flavor and being upset by the destruction of one of the best meals in the world (see Pho Darwin: Worst in the World). The other type of disappointment is glancing down to see that you are halfway done with the bowl but unable to recall how it came to this so quickly. That’s what happened here.

a bowl of soup with chopsticks


Undercooking the beef is only a prerequisite for a bowl of pho. It doesn’t mean that it will be good. Here, the beef was perfectly cooked and perfect in flavor.chopsticks holding a bowl of soup with meat and vegetables

The TPOL Test

Use your senses when you eat pho. A great bowl will tickle all of them. Ultimately, however, it will come down to one thing: was the bowl consumed in its entirety or was there a drop left behind?

a bowl of brown liquid a close up of a white bowl

I rest my case.

And for Good Measure

The cafe sua da was also delightful.

a glass of brown liquid with a spoon on a table


On this day, Sao Mai served the best pho in NYC. When I go again, I hope that is still true.

Best Pho NYC is part of TPOL in NYC.



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