Cha Pa’s May Have the Best Phở in Midtown
The question of ‘Who makes the best phở?’ is a hotly debated topic – NoVa versus Seattle versus NorCal versus SoCal – it’s a showdown with an impossible conclusion. But I doubt that I’d get too many dissenting opinions if I proclaimed New York’s pho joints to be generally mediocre, with even lousier options in Midtown Manhattan. But we should work with what we have. After multiple visits to the newly opened Cha Pa’s Noodles and Grill (on 52nd btw. 8+9th), I’ve found that the quality of the food and maturity of the service has markedly improved. And they serve, in my humble opinion, one of the best bowls of phở that I’ve tasted in Midtown.
Not only is it a very adept version of phở, but it’s relatively one of the better lunch deals in the area. For $7.95, you can choose from a small lunch menu of Vietnamese standards (phở included) and a side of chả giò (fried spring roll) or a side salad. The phở has all the hallmarks of a good version – slightly raw and pliant vermicelli noodles that soften up as the meal progresses and filament thin shavings of raw beef that are slowly cooked by the steaming hot broth. The broth is proficiently brewed, assertively beefy, appreciably onion-y, and lightly astringent from a steep in coriander, star anise, and cardamom and ginger.
The complimentary side of chả giò was also quite good – crackly crisp exterior and exceptionally juicy pork in the interior. And if a bowl of phở doesn’t completely fill you up, you could grab a side of shrimp chips ($1.50) or a fresh baguette ($1.50) and still remain under the $10 mark.
Proclaiming Cha Pa’s to have one of the best bowls of phở in Midtown is an assertive statement and I’d like to hear contrasting opinions – you know, for future research. This discussion is at least less volatile than the ongoing argument of how to actually pronounce the stuff.