The pho journey in the Capital Region so far has included Kim's and Van's. My Linh and Pho Yum are the next step on the trail, and then two more stops are coming up.
My Linh Pho Bo
I had the "entree" size which is mentioned in the description of the soup.
The "kit" effect of the Pho Bo is also a bit different than my other experiences in the series so far. The condiments in the form of fresh jalapenos, basil leaves, sprouts, lime, sriracha and hoisin sauces arrive at the table, then a steaming bowl of broth and noodles and a separate plate of thin raw surloin with paper thin onion. There are also cilantro and scallion in the noodles. The server begins the soup experience by putting the surloin and onion into the broth, then you can take over and finish composing the soup according to taste. The beef is cooked in the broth within a minute or two. The My Linh broth is less robust than Van's or Kim's , but it stands up to the other features of the soup very well. The surloin was deliciously flavorful and tender. While it's a more simple version with fewer options than the other restaurants' offerings, it's a good pho experience in my opinion. So if not everyone in your party wants soup, but you have a craving, My Linh will accommodate all.
Pho Yum Pho
Delicious fresh summer rolls with nuoc nam sauce were my appetizer at Pho Yum. I recommend these highly. They're substantive but not so heavy that they make finishing one's soup impossible.
Although Pho Yum restaurant is owned by the same family as My Linh, the experience is very different. On a cold rainy April night the place was busy when I arrived around 6:30. It is much more casual than My Linh and has a menu with a distinct pho focus. There's a good starter menu and also a bahn mi list and a dessert list.
There are many more choices for customizing the soup on the Pho Yum menu than anywhere else on the journey so far, including a double-strength broth option. I had the regular broth and went full bore with all three beef options: meatballs, brisket and eye round. Each meat added a different flavor of beef, all with positive influence on the soup. No one spice stood out in the broth, but the range of spices made for a satisfying aroma and rich flavor. The modest size of the soup bowl makes it easy to taste the non-pho parts of the menu in a single visit. This is definitely a place to return again and again to taste one's way through varieties of pho. The good prices are an incentive to try as many varieties as possible!
What I'm gaining from going through so many types of pho is the sense that this soup has a world of things going on inside it. It's not just that there's more than one kind of pho, it's that there's supposed to be a unique quality to the bowl of pho that you are about to slurp down with great relish. The overarching idea is that everyone can make it their own, so a place that specializes in it such as Pho Yum embellishes that idea in as many ways as possible, starting the customer with something very basic and also providing ingredients to make it a complex heady bowl of hot goodness that warms body and soul.
One piece of equipment that will enhance any pho experience is a hankie. Take one with you. A large bowl of hot spicy soup requires a "be prepared" attitude. Your inevitable sniffling and snuffling will be politely quieted and you and your companions will have a much more pleasant time.
There are a few management issues with this restaurant that leave questions in my mind, such as a women's washroom that was appallingly dysfunctional. I hope this was a very temporary condition. This sort of thing unfortunately takes away from the experience, even though it doesn't have anything to do with the food. If it was just that perhaps it wouldn't be worth mentioning, but there was also only one wait staff person trying to take care of all nine of the tables. Several times during the dinner car headlights became problem as cars pulled close to the front windows nearly blinding me, being about 8 feet from my eyes. A shade would eliminate this issue. So there are a few things that the management should do to make the customer experience much less awkward. I consider this type of thing to be a sort of "skimping" that helps them keep their prices low. Frankly, I'd rather pay more and be less annoyed.