Off-Ramp | Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Don't make a "Pho pas" at LA's best Vietnamese restaurant

I always forget just how good the coffee they serve in Vietnamese restaurants is (cà phê sua nóng).

First, they put a good dose of sweetened condensed milk in the cup, then they put the filter (which works like a Melitta) over the cup, and then you wait. And wait. The holes in the metal are so small it takes about ten minutes before your cup is ready, and it doesn't help to fiddle with the filter. You just have to wait. But when it's done, it's sweet and strong and rich. In the summer, pour it over ice (cà phê sua dá), but it's too cold for that now.

My favorite place for the coffee, Pho, and vermicelli with egg rolls and bbq pork, is Pho 87 at the northern end of Chinatown (1019 N Broadway 90012). It looks pretty dumpy, but the food is delicious, the service is fast and very friendly, and it's generally filled with all kinds of people, especially kids (teens and twenties) who aren't eating Taco Bell of McDonald's, which always makes me happy. (If you check out that Yelp link, I don't know what "Judy T" is talking about, saying there aren't any Vietnamese in the joint. Maybe she misunderstood and was looking for Viennese people?)

Just one thing: don't ask me how to say "Pho."

I'll go into one of the nine billion Vietnamese restaurants in LA and say, "Please give me a bowl of your delicious Pho."

They say, "Pho? What's that?"

"Pho," I say, "the reknowned soup of Vietnam. You know, Pho."

"Never heard of it. But if you want some Pho, we've got plenty."

It apparently has to do with the circumflex.

Good news, though: Pho 87 is now open until 9pm. They used to close at 8:30 for some dumb reason.