Is PPQ the best Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco?
I used to be in the camp of Vietnam II for the longest time, mainly because when I worked at a Southeast Asian restaurant, that’s where almost all of my co-workers ate.
That is, until I discovered Pho Phú Quôc, otherwise known as PPQ. Which is funny: I always guessed that they had to shorten their name since I’m probably not the only one that doesn’t know how to really pronounce “pho“.
Some think it’s a variation on the French beef-in-broth dish known as“pot au feu”, which is pronounced fewh, but since I’m not a fan of it, I’m off the hook in the pronunciation department and can skip the whole quandary entirely.
(And can I tell you how much fun it is to speak English liberally? I am chatting everyone up this week—supermarket checkers, salesclerks, the tellers at my bank…basically anyone that’s not in a position to run away from me.)
What I love here is their Bo Bun, the Vietnamese cold noodle salad: a bowl of sliced cucumbers of mung beans gets topped with cold rice noodles, then meat or prawns are served on top, finished with roasted peanuts and sliced scallions, with the option of deep-friend spring rolls tucked in the bowl as well. I know deep-fried food is the devil’s lubrication, but I can’t help it and always order them.
At PPQ, the Bo Bun is terrific. The chicken strips are fried until the skin is hyper-crispy and the whole bowl comes together in one brilliant dish, that I pick and pluck at with my chopsticks until I’m scraping the last of the bean sprouts off the bottom. And anyone who’s tasted a bean sprout will certainly agree that they’re one of the least-appealing, and least-flavorful, things to eat. They’re about as insipid as bok choy, in my book.
With an ice coffee dripping away into a steel cup of sweetened condensed milk, ready to be poured over ice, this is one of my very favorite meals in San Francisco. I guess I should go back to Vietnam II, just for old times sake, and to see if it’s still good. But honestly, I can’t imagine it getting any better than this and continue to stick with the sure thing.
1816 Irving Street, at 19th Avenue (Map)
(No credit cards)
Vietnam (Eating Every Day)
3 San Francisco Favorite Ethnic Eateries (DavidLebovitz.com)
The Best Kind of Vietnamese at PPQ (Cupcakes and Kimchi)
The Burrito King (DavidLebovitz.com)
Cold Noodles on a Warm Day at PPQ (In Praise of Sardines)