Pho Golden Cow stands out from the other storefronts in its Skyline-adjacent strip plaza for one distinct reason: Along with the sign bearing its name hoisted above the entrance is an image of a cow who, if such a thing were possible, seems to be grinning from ear to ear. Though a morbid thought, is it possible that a cow who knew his inevitable fate would smile at the thought of becoming a delicious bowl of pho? While such a scenario is highly unlikely, it’s made more possible by the quality of pho served a Pho Golden Cow.
Those who enter the restaurant are greeted, and overwhelmingly, by the very air of the restaurant. It is almost humid with the broth that makes up its Vietnamese noodle soup, cilantro scents carrying customers into the sparsely decorated hall, lined with rows of tables which all seem to face the kitchen, as if waiting for the delights to come.
That wait isn’t long, thanks in no small part to the nature of the menu. The menu primarily features varieties of pho, all containing the same stock, leaving customers only the decision of what types of meat (beef and chicken) should accompany the broth, and what size (small for $6.90 or large for $7.90) they should order.
Some steamed rice plates and broth-less vermicelli dishes are available for those not wishing to partake in the soup extravaganza to come but – now, mind the name of this establishment – those dishes are often overlooked.
Three appetizers are offered – egg rolls, fresh spring rolls, and fresh vegetarian spring rolls. At $3, the egg rolls combine minced pork and vegetables within a deep-fried rice paper, and are delicious – especially when dipped in the accompanying fish sauce – but are greasy and heavy in a way that the rest of the meal will not be. The vegetarian fresh rolls, pairing vermicelli and vegetables within a soft, chewy rice paper wrap for $2.75, leave something to be desired and need much assistance from the peanut sauce they are served with.
But all is made right when the pho appears at the table. Within large, plain white bowls is a medley of sights and smells, bright greens of herbs and scallion pieces bobbing atop the brown tones of broth and beef, all giving off their scents and heat to the eager faces above. The tools of the trade are a deep spoon and chopsticks, and the best advice to give as to how to eat this dish is to simply not dine with those one is afraid to make a mess in front of. Be it spinning, slurping, scooping or sipping, diners take in the dish, with its long, chewy vermicelli noodles and its savory, flavorful broth, in their own unique way. Customization in the pho experience is paramount and easily accomplished when the base broth is so flavorful. Be it the surprisingly tender thin flank strips, almost feather-like in texture, or the chewy, fatty soft tendon chunks, diners pick among several beef varieties when picking beef pho, and simply pick from dark and white chicken when ordering chicken pho.
A plate of accompaniments is served along with the pho including raw bean spouts for a bit of crunch and mild flavor, basil to increase the herbaceousness of the broth, lime for tanginess and jalapeno slices to provide some heat which, reader beware, grows as it settles in the bowl. Squirt bottles of Sriracha sauce and plum sauce bring heat and sweetness, respectively. While experimentation is encouraged, too many cooks does literally spoil the broth, and the pho is best when only adjusted slightly. By the end of a long meal spent happily making their way to the bottom of the bowl, diners are surprised that, indeed, a bowl of soup for a dinner can be quite filling.
Pho Golden Cow is located at 3537 S. Jefferson St., Falls Church. For more information, call 703-575-7871 or visit phogoldencow.net. Restaurant hours are
Monday – Saturday: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.