Strip a dish down to its basic elements and the quality of the ingredients has nowhere to hide. Take pho for example, a seemingly simple bowl of noodle soup. The broth, innocuous at first, must surprise you with its depth. The noodles must be gently yielding, the beef fresher than fresh. The finishing flourish of herbs and lime must bring the soup to life in the last moments before its conception.
The name Pho Laboratory seems apt, then, since the team has clearly spent a long time analyzing this dish. Order their pho dac biet (beef pho, small RMB 50, large RMB 60) and you will be rewarded with undulating, rare slices of imported sirloin that give way to reveal a beef knuckle broth simmered for 12 hours. Be sure to shell out the extra RMB 10 for a more satisfying portion of meat. Sriracha fans will be glad to see a familiar rooster-clad bottle gracing the tables.
If you can tear yourself away from the pho long enough to consider the rest of the short menu, a barbecue pork banh mi (RMB 40) suffers a little from a ratio of too little meat to too much pickled veg, but is redeemed by an irresistibly chewy baguette, baked in-house every morning. Homemade cookies and brownies (RMB 20) may tempt, but you would do better to linger over a Vietnamese coffee, pre-sweetened with condensed milk, and dream of a tropical breeze over Halong Bay.
The Pho Laboratory
Daily 11.30am-11pm. Opposite 12 Xinzhong Jie, Dongcheng District (151 1000 4814)
700m northeast of Dongsishitiao station (Line 2)
This post first appeared on thebeijinger.com on July 11, 2014.
Photos courtesy of thebeijinger.com