Fish pho is an unusual star in the galaxy of Vietnamese noodle soup within Little Saigon. Is it because fish filets are trickier to cook perfectly? Is it because fewer restaurants are willing to commit to keeping the more perishable protein on hand? Whatever the reason, only a few shops serve pho ca, and the most reliably crave-worthy version is dished up at Pho Vinh Ky II.
We told you about Pho Vinh Ky II during this year's Final Pho, when eventual winner Pho Thanh Lich knocked it out of contention. Since I'm the one who had to vote it off that island, I also have to stick up for its place in this year's 100 Favorites list.
Somehow, Vinh Ky II's subtly sweet beef broth, with overtones of allspice and clove, works even better with the meaty basa filets than it does with the beef pho. Is it so they can live up to the giant neon sign by the front door that advertises the pho ca? Does some pescatarian in the kitchen secretly want to wean us off red meat? The secret of why the fish is the best bowl here is a mystery that might never be revealed, but if you're a seafood-lover, roll with it and trust that the neon sign does not lie.
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Pho Vinh Ky II, 14390 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove, (714) 531-4965.
Click here for our 100 faves from 2010! The list so far this time around:
No. 81: Quesadilla Chilanga at Alebrije's Grill
No. 82: Lobster Roll at Lobsta Truck
No. 83: Nem Nuong Cuon at Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa
No. 84: Wild Boar Balinese Sausage at Valhalla Table
No. 85: Comida Corrida at Taquería La Raza
No. 86: Breakfast Burrito at Troy's Drive-In
No. 87: Mandoo at L&M Liquor and Deli
No. 88: Chicago Dog at Chicago Harv's
No. 89: Sweet Potato Tater Tots at Pee Wee's Famous
No. 90: Kaya-Stuffed French Toast at Chomp Chomp
No. 91: Egg Breakfast at Rick's Atomic Kitchen
No. 92: Sticky Rice With Chicken at Quan Hy
No. 93: Beef Koobideh at Hen House Grill
No. 94: $5 Fish Bento at Bentoss
No. 95: Milanesa Sandwich at Piaggio's Gourmet on Wheels
No. 96: Samurai Burrito at Wafu of Japan
No. 97: Carnitas Gordita at Bodega R Ranch Market
No. 98: Spam Musubi at k'ya Street Fare
No. 99: Tortilla Andorra at Anepalco's
No. 100: Lemongrass Chicken, Extra Spicy at Vietnam's Pearl