I Wonder if I'll Still Like Pho 32 When I Get Back From Vietnam

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The beginning of my search for Vietnamese food ahead of my upcoming trip to Asia coincided with the rainy days we had over the last few weeks. With the early onset of soup weather, I’ve found myself at Pho 32 a lot lately. The Koreatown soup station has been mentioned many times here and I’ve written about it, but it’s never gotten the proper Midtown Lunch treatment.

With fall here, it’s just about the right time to start looking at the area soup options, so check out Pho 32′s offerings after the jump.

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Obviously, the focus here is pho – for the uninitiated, that’s pronounced ‘fuh’ – a Vietnamese soup made from a light broth, noodles and topped with meat or meats of your choice.

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The soups come in two sizes, medium and large, the large is pretty large and always the way I go. For just a couple bucks more it’s worth it.

They also serve a few other Vietnamese options like bun as well as shabu shabu, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone order. Pho 32 is open 24 hours, so I’m guessing it’s more popular in the evening and for hearty post-party snacking. The lunch hour is for less elaborate meals.

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The meats available for the pho vary from the staid to the obscure. Above is my longtime favorite, the #4, which includes brisket, flank, beef tendon and tripe (Large, $8.95). I’ve never managed to convince anyone to try it, so I won’t try now. I will say that while tripe’s coarse, rubbery texture might put some off, the soft chewiness on the tendon is very satisfying and worth a try even if you wouldn’t usually.

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If that’s not your thing, you can certainly get it with just Brisket (Large, $8.95), as my friend had here.

In both cases, the broth is a base, not heavy or strongly flavored. The pile of sprouts and cilantro and a lime that comes alongside each bowl, together with the chili sauce and plum paste, allow everyone to adjust the flavors of the soup as they see fit.

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I’d recommend using the chili sauce even if you aren’t into spicy foods. My friend wasn’t particularly blown away by his soup until I coaxed him into adding a bit into his. A small dollop here and there will work wonders without setting your mouth on fire.

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In an effort to explore the menu a bit, I tried the pork bun, noodles, veggies and chopped grilled pork piled high in a bowl with a spring roll on top ($8.95).

It’s good, but the layering made it a hassle to get to the noodles beneath it all. Everything tasted good, and I’m sure all those veggies are good for me, but digging through it was a little annoying.

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On my most recent visit, i strayed from my regular meaty selections and chose the Seafood pho (Large, $9.45). It was packed with shrimp, scallops and squid – more than I expected for the price.

Barring some amazing discovery while I seek out Vietnamese food around town, Pho 32 will continue to be one of my go-to soup spots when the weather sucks and I want a hearty bowl of warmth and spice.

The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • There are few things more satisfying that a big bowl of noodle soup on a chilly day.
  • It’s even better when that soup is full of chewy beef tendons and slices of flank steak.
  • I love being able to modify the soup broth with the condiments on hand – especially the chili sauce.

The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • Uh, I’ve had good pho and this is not it.
  • Ew, tripe!
  • I don’t do DIY, I want my broth to be perfect when I get it.
  • Sorry- but you can’t get good Vietnamese food anywhere in New York

Pho 32, 2 W 32nd St (btw. B’way+5th), 212-695-0888

8 Comments

  • Mmm PHO!!!!!! Get in my belly.

  • Uh…i dunno how many other vietnamese places you’ve eaten at but i don’t know if i’d agree with the statement “you can’t get good vietnamese food in new york.” I’ve had solid authentic vietnamese food from Bao Noodles and Baoguette has solid banh mi (just to name a few).

    Now if you’re talking Pho i’d be more likely to agree (at least in midtown). I hear Obao has pho, and if it’s anything like the pho at Pho Sure it’s definitely an improvement over pho 32 but still lacking compared to chinatown. Saigon grill works ok when you’re in a pinch as well. Either way I too wish they had better pho, and even tho i’m not a tripe fan i don’t see how that’s necessarily a minus…

  • I’m pretty sure i’ve never eaten here when I was sober.

  • yea for midtown it’s aight. i like pho grand in chinatown. might not look as clean but whatevs. delicious.

  • I used think that NY had decent Vietnamese food. Until I went to the west coast, that is!

    I’m not sure what it is but even a long standing NYC establishment like Pho Bang doesn’t seem to make the broth as magically delicious as the Pho places I’ve been to in the west coast. I’ve had the best Pho in San Fran and Austin. I wish I can bring the broth back for analysis. One day =)

    Pho32 is not my first choice when I feel like eating Pho, but it is what it is!

  • coming from san francisco i’ve always been disappointed with the pho options in the city. the places in chinatown and flushing are good enough. pho32? korean-viet fusion? um, no thanks…

    although nothing will beat the soup base from vietnam, the beef is gonna suck. the cows in vietnam are farmed to death so the meat is chewy and old as heck.

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    Uh, a trip to Chinatown for cheap but passable Chinese-made pho is already enough to make a person disappointed in Pho 32′s overpriced Korean-made pho. I can only imagine how badly it compares to an average bowl pho in Vietnam.

  • I like their add-in bar (oils, flakes, spice, all the good things to throw into your pho)

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