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Pho Thanh Binh
107 Via Pico Plaza, San Clemente
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. every day
Pho (pronounced Fuh) is a hearty, but not heavy, soup-like dish that is the centerpiece of Vietnamese cuisine. A bed of rice noodles is topped with beef cuts, never frozen and certified angus-quality, perfectly cooked to order. Fresh and locally sourced vegetables, including onion, lemongrass and ginger, are accented with splashes of peppercorn and chilies before being doused with lime to taste.
The steaming bowl emerged from the kitchen carried by none-other than Pho Thanh Binh owner Hung “Paul” Bui. The most common of the virtually countless varieties of pho, the beef pho is also Bui’s personal favorite.
Bui came to the United States in the early 1960s as a Vietnamese refugee escaping the communist regime. The eldest of five siblings, Bui honed his cooking skills feeding his family in rural Saigon. After immigrating to California, he attended culinary school in Los Angeles before opening Pho Thanh Binh in 2013. Meshing traditional experience, modern techniques and a stalwart dedication to quality, Pho Thanh Binh offers what Bui proudly considers an unrivaled Vietnamese dining experience.
“When I eat anything, I’m always judging the quality,” Bui said. “How it looks and how it feels; not just the taste. I won’t do anything if it isn’t done the right way, including having all of the right ingredients.” —Photo and text by Danny Ritz