After a rather pleasant tour of the Palais Garnier (also known as the Paris Opera House), we were ready for some lunch. I always rather enjoy a good phở, and due to their colonial past in Southeast Asia Paris is blessed with more than a few phở joints. We ended up settling on Au Bon Pho tucked down a quiet little road in the 3e arrondissement.
But before I get too far into the review, we should talk a bit about “Vietnamese” cuisine. If you are from the US, like I am, chances are your “Vietnamese” food is distinctly “Southern Vietnamese”, because the vast majority of Vietnamese immigrants to the United States came during and immediate after the Vietnam War (hence the preponderance of places named after Saigon, or named with a number, which is often the year the founder came to the US), but there’s actually a rather wide variety of styles of both Vietnamese food in general, and phở in particularly, especially if you also add in influences from nearby Cambodia and Laos. So when I travel outside the US, it’s often interesting to try out other “Vietnamese” places for phở, since often they are drawing from a wider set of culinary influences.
That was definitely the case with Au Bun Pho. Walking in, the vibe was definitely your standard phở joint, but as we started to look over the menu, I started to notice that some of the dishes had different names (such as “Nem rán” for the egg rolls instead of the Southern “Cha Gio”). The condiments on the table were different, with more hot peppers, and a bottle of sugar. And a few attempts by my brother (who knows a little bit of Vietnamese) also resulted in some baffled looks by the proprietor, until talking with him (he know English quite well), we put it all together. Au Bun Pho is actually Laotian, much like Noodle Station in Reykjavik was.
But aside from the slightly differing names and a few different condiments, Au Bun Pho was a solid phở joint. Our Nem rán were particularly tasty little spiced pork egg rolls, served up with a bountiful amount of herbs and lettuce, and fried to perfection: I always love a crispy and bubbly skin that gives way to a tender, spicy pork interior, packed just loose enough that it can soak up all the nước chấm.
And the phở itself? Also excellent: a very rich and flavorful, and slightly darker broth than many of my phởs, with a slightly different and less anise-y spicing, it was a very pleasant bowl of sliced beef, tendon, and the little bo meatballs.
Overall, Au Bon Pho was exactly what we were looking for: some great phở in a nice little shop that was a nice respite from the busy shopping outside.