Food review: pho sate

Approaching Pho Sate, you’d never know the value within. The restaurant is hidden under an overhang in a dull strip mall on the corner of Graham Road and Route 50.

However, the inside of the restaurant is vibrant, both as a result of the kiwi-green walls and the downright delicious soup.

The line was running out the door when we got there, with tables full of Northern Virginians enjoying lunch. Why is this place so popular?

Well, it seems everyone is onto something, mostly because the pho is both cheap and good, the golden combination. A regular size soup is about $7, a large $8. Both of which are cheaper than lunch at Panera and much more filling. The regular, by the way, is more than enough to sate your hunger.

Pho, pronounced “fuh,” hails from Vietnam, where the soup is a integral feature of the cuisine. The soup, built upon a base of beef broth, features a mass of thin rice noodles, scallions, and your choice of beef.

Be mindful, as you choose your soup, of the beef parts included. If you are not okay with having ambiguous animal parts arriving in your bowl, stick with the eye round steak, flank or brisket. Tripe, for all those wondering, is beef stomach. We’re still not sure what soft tendons are.

The soup is out in no time, and arrives with a piled-high plate of bean sprouts, limes, and fresh basil. A small seasoned oil arrives, too.

The blessing and curse of the pho experience is its independence. Like fro-yo, it’s all on you. Plum sauce and Sriracha hot sauce are on the tables, but no one will show you how much to put in, or even indicate that it’s necessary. See our User’s Guide for instructions.

The other downside of pho is how difficult it is to eat it. Don’t make this your first date. You will be slurping, and let’s hope you have experience with chopsticks. No forks or knives will be served.

Another downside is the fairly confined space and running TV in the background. Pho Sate is not fancy. While clean, the tables are nothing to look at.

However, the food and fantastic prices make up for it. If you are looking for a cheap and delicious lunch, Pho Sate is for you. You will leave sated but not stuffed, and with a still-thick wallet. Pho fo’ sho.