Wed 8 Dec 2010
129, ave de Choisy, in the 13th Arrondissement.
01 45 83 61 15. Open every day, 9 a.m.–11 p.m.
It’s not even technically winter yet, but you wouldn’t know it in Paris these days. A cold snap worthy of deepest January settled in last week, and temperatures didn’t rise until Saturday during a snowstorm, melting those pretty flakes into freezing wet drops.
The Vietnamese noodle soup known simply as pho—a beef and charred-onion broth, aromatic with spices (yes, that is cinnamon you smell)—is a perfect cold-weather food, its tropical origins notwithstanding.
Paris has no shortage of pho spots, many clustered in the 13th Arrondissement’s Chinatown. That’s where Pho 14 is. You’ll recognize it by the line that forms out the door. We beat the queue last weekend (go before 12:30 to improve your odds) and settled into a tight table along the wall.
This is a no-frills noodle joint, brightly lit with brisk service. In fact, before we even ordered, the garnishes arrived: sprigs of mint and basil, lemon wedges, hoisin sauce, sprouts, chopped chilies and white onion slices.
There is one pho with chicken; the rest are beef, with raw or cooked meat (the raw actually cooks in the broth), boulettes (little meatballs) or some combination thereof.
Pho "boeuf normal" and pork spring rolls.
I chose Number 2, Boeuf Normal, not to be confused with Number 1, Boeuf Spécial, unless you like tripe. A few minutes later a steaming bowl arrived, with bright green cilantro sprigs and thin red slices of rare beef surfacing from a heavily perfumed broth, hiding rice noodles underneath. Pork spring rolls, wrappers blistered from the fry, were almost too much.
A lunch this cheap and good was almost enough to make me forget how nasty it was outside. Almost.
In a nutshell: In a neighborhood full of noodle joints, Pho 14 is the one to know.
Price check: Pho from 6.50 to 7.90 euros. Delightfully cheap.
If you like the sound of Pho 14 but want your noodle fix on the right bank:
3, rue Volta, in the 3rd.
Editor’s note: For a gourmet walking trip, check out our DIY downloadable trips.