A prelude, from, of all places, ANSWERBAG.COM:
“Northern pho has a lighter broth with less star anise and cinnamon. The use of fresh herbs such as basil, saw, and ram rau isn’t as prevalent.”
Bac = “north” in Vietnamese. Pho bac = Northern pho. My understanding of pho bac adds the usage of flat, wider pho noodles as well as plentitude of ginger slices and derth of MSG.
With that out of the way… a friend has been chasing pho bac since her SF days (hi Judy!) slurpin pho at Turtle Tower. I, myself, have only followed recently, only in SGV, and mostly to the point of failure.
Up to a few months ago, 101 Bakery in Monterey Park, CA served a pretty authentic pho bac, except no one (especially Yelpers!) appreciated it, not even the native Vietnamese. 101 had a tame broth, with wide noodle, served with minced filet mignon. Granted the $5 filet mignon special had really funked beef, but hey.. whatevs. They went outta biz after a year and a half.
Pho Filet, IMHO, doesn’t do a purely authentic pho bac either. But they smart cuz they wanna last more than just a year. For $6, you get a faux-pho bac, better than any pho served at Pho Bac (the restaurant on Valley, aka Golden Cafe), with plenty of ginger, slippery soft wide noodles freshly cooked and a lil ball of filet mignon that just melts in your mouth. Unfortunately, they still use MSG (as one can obvious tell by the immense punch of Splenda-esque sweetness that hits you upon the first sip), and they serve ALL the greens so one must have a bit of self-restraint to only dress the pho bac with a dab of lime juice.
Overall, with the addition of Pho Filet, which opened last December or so, Rosemead and S. El Monte have surpassed the rest of SGV in terms of crisp, unadulterated pho.
9463 Garvey Ave, #A
South El Monte, CA 91733