Little Window’s North Vietnamese Chicken Pho is Perfect for the SF Summer Gloom
Mark Twain’s oft-quoted appraisal of S.F’s cruel and spiteful summer climate has been ringing in my ears for about a month now; July hit and like clockwork the Great Grayness was pulled over the length and width of S.F like a wool blanket being drawn up to the chin of a bed-ridden, tubercular Fyodor Dostoevsky. Sun can sometimes be felt and seen in the city on these dark days, but only if you head east. My culinary mission propelled me instead in the opposite direction, towards the ever-deepening gloom of The Outer Sunset, towards a steaming bowl of pho.
The Outer Sunset can seem at a glance while shooting through it beach-bound to be without accent or landmark, but upon a closer perusal random commercial zones reveal themselves here and there. The limits of one such micro-district, along Noriega Street, are set by Sunset Boulevard to the west and, roughly-speaking, 29th Street to the east. Situated therein is Quan Ngon, aka Little Window. It’s a Northern Vietnamese style restaurant, specializing in pho. The proprietor helpfully enumerated a few prominent distinctions between the northern and southern pho thusly: the presence of a flat rice noodle, and the absence of the usual plate of accompaniments (basil or mint, shredded cabbage or bean sprouts), except for a small heap of sliced jalapeño. Little Window is particular known for their pho ga, i.e. chicken pho. In lesser hands pho ga can be underwhelming and bland, but these folks have done magical things with the broth, which smells of rich chicken stock and fragrant aromatics that I couldn’t and wasn’t interested in demystifying, even if they had been willing to divulge the recipe. The meat was generously apportioned and the noodles perfectly cooked with bits of scallion and cilantro clinging to the opalescent strands. Little Window also makes an amazing sauce about which I also remained willfully incurious and which added a throat-clearing heat and dimension to the already complex cauldron.
For all you bean counters, the large bowl of pho ga set me back eight dollars. The only thing missing was beer, but that was remedied by a visit afterward to the neighboring bar, called Fire Fly Sports Bar, a mostly-locals spot whose mildewed charms might induce me to write it up one of these days. My fingers are stiff from the chill wind squeezing through the gaps in my bedroom window. Mark Twain would no doubt call me a big pussy.
2511 Noriega Street (@ 32nd Avenue)