Image: Beef and Broth.
Last Updated: March 2023
The accumulated knick-knacks may obscure entrance, but keep looking until you find it. Pho Viet sits on the north side of Columbia Heights and, as the name indicates, serves pho in a finely-tuned broth that sings. The bowls can be ordered with various meats on top (or shrimp or tofu). They also can adjust the spice level measurable in the size of the eddies of chili oil along the edge of the bowl.
Inside are just a few tables with a stream of regulars. There are other items on the menu, but what they order, and you will likely order too is the pho. Like a neighbor down a few blocks, Pho Viet has the unusual honor of being review by Tom Sietsema and someone else in the Post. Tom’s review in 2010 nodded to a few other menu options – summer rolls (which we would also vouch for), meatballs, but focused on the pho broth writing, “What makes the broth from this kitchen so intoxicating is its clarity.” The other reviewer was not Tim Carman, it was Holley Simmons in 2017, but Simmons is nearly Carman-like in her appreciation: “The pure, near-translucent broth is so packed with aromatics it nearly levitates. It’s made with ginger, onion, a special 11-spice blend imported from Vietnam, oxtail and as much brisket and flank steak as can fit in the pot. She treats the piping-hot liquid as a blank canvas, layering it with noodles, bean shoots, Thai basil and different cuts of beef such as springy meatballs and razor-thin, raw cuts of eye-of-round steak that cook as they’re dunked in the steamy liquid.”
The broth in question is from Phi Nguyen, who operates the place with her husband, Minh Chau. We can’t add much beyond Tom and Simmons, but the pho is thoroughly enjoyable. Ordering at 50% spice level gives it some kick, but won’t make you cry.
There is a homespun, almost stepping-out-of-time feeling to this place. Beverages are limited, with no alcoholic options, though the fresh lemonade is tarty and fresh. There is a small patio out front for use weather permitting.
Other Guidance: The noodles are rice noodles, but the broth is meat based, and nearly all the dishes incorporate meat. It is located at street level.
Washingtonian: no coverage
Nomtastic (presumably Kimberly Kong) – List of Best Asian in D.C.