Behold, the 16 lucky pho shops that Dave, Edwin, Shuji and I have selected to participate in Stick a Fork In It's inaugural Final Pho, the tournament to end all tournaments to finally decide who makes the best pho in Orange County (if not the whole the United States).
As I explained earlier, the format is fiendishly simple: The four of us each picked four pho places (Dave picked first, then Shuji, then Edwin, then me--but I got the first pick). We'll match them up in our own brackets until we each emerge with a winner, leaving the Final Pho. Then, we trade brackets--say, Dave and I are supposed to face off with our respective choices? Shuji and Edwin do the face-off for us, and vice versa. We might even include guest judges toward the end (Dee Nguyen of Break of Dawn? The crazy chinitos from Dos Chinos? Evan Kleimain?) just to make our process even more thorough.
For the final match-up, we're all going to try the final two and figure out a winner. Our respective brackets after the jump, along with my thoughts on their strengths and the dates when our reviews will run!
Full bracket and logo to come later 'cause I'm a lazy Mexican. After the jump!: The bracket!
I got the first pick of the litter and chose Pho Dakao, as I'm probably one of the few people who prefer chicken pho to beef pho, and Pho Dakao is one of the masters of the craft, especially given it gets its chickens fresh from its poultry business in Midway City. I decided to stick with the old-school, and thus went with the pioneers of the scene: Kim Loan long operated as the only Vietnamese restaurant in North County, while Pho Hien Vuong and Pho Nguyen Hue always duke it out for the title of the first OC pho house--now, they get to fight one last time. I'm thinking Pho Dakao will emerge from this bracket, but the Hien Vuong/Nguyen Hue matchup will be BRUTAL.
Since Edwin and I are going to face off against each other in the Final Pho, he decided to go the higher-end route. AnQi against Benley will be a fascinating matchup, as each is geared toward the non-Vietnamese palate. Meanwhile, Brodard Chateau and S. keep their Vietnamese roots, but use higher-quality ingredients. I'm picking Brodard in this one.
We named Pho Thanh Lich the best pho in OC last year, so it's the overall favorite. But Vin Ky II's fish pho is not to be taken lightly--I say it's the Gonzaga of this tournament. Thanh Long and Quan Hop are other new-school entries, but I'm not sure they can beat either Thanh Lich or Vin Ky II. Then again, bigger upsets have happened. . . .
To borrow from another sports tournament, I say this is the Group of Death. Quang Trung's chicken pho is magnificent, but Pho Kimmy's anise-heavy broth is the stuff of legend. Pho 79 is one of the the kings of Little Saigon, while Pho 86 is BAD-ASS. Brutal, brutal, brutal--can't pick a winner here.
Now, the calendar of when these match-ups will get published (NOT when we'll be at the restaurants)--on the next page!FIRST ROUND
March 14: Pho Dakao vs. Kim Loan
March 15: AnQi vs. Benley
March 16: Pho Thanh Lich vs. Pho Vin Ky II
March 17: Pho Quang Trung vs. Pho Kimmy
March 18 Pho Nguyen Hue vs. Pho Hien Vuong
March 19: Brodard Chateau vs. S. Fine Vietnamese
March 20: Pho Thanh Long vs. Quan Hop
March 21: Pho 79 vs. Pho 86
March 22: Gustavo's winners
March 23: Edwin's winners
March 24: Shuji's winners
March 25: Dave's winners
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March 29: Edwin's winner vs. Gustavo's winner
March 31: Dave's winner vs. Shuji's winner