Pho Thanh Binh. 107 Via Pico Plaza, San Clemente. 949.369.3876.
Pho is therapeutic. There may not be science yet to verify that, but anyone who’s eaten the classic Vietnamese noodle soup, especially after a long night or while battling a cold, knows that its combination of warmth, umami, salt and spice has magical healing powers.
There’s a pho for everyone at San Clemente’s Pho Thanh Binh. I went with the house special of rare beef, brisket, tendon and tripe—a traditional take on the noodle soup.
The best part about pho is the way the flavor integrates as you eat it. Throw in your basil, jalapeno, hoisin and spicy chili—getting it spicy is another good cold remedy—and by the time you’re halfway through the gigantic serving bowl, the add-ins marry the peppery beef and unctuous tendon and tripe to create a singular indulgent bite. And though not everyone is an offal fan, Pho Thanh Binh’s tripe is tender and savory, and the tendon is rich and melts on the tongue.
By the end of the bowl, the broth has assimilated and condensed all elements into a robustly flavorful bite. And whether you need it or not, the pho at Pho Thanh Binh warms the soul.—Matt Cortina