As you walk through the door, don’t let the smell of incense deceive you, for Pho So No. 1 is truly the best Vietnamese restaurant in South Jersey. After a long day of shopping at the Cherry Hill Mall, my friend and I drove right down Rt.38 for about two minutes before finding this small, delightful restaurant (address 2442) at Plaza 38.
At first, we were not impressed with the restaurant because of the appetizer we ordered: Gỏi Cuốn (Shrimp Salad Summer Rolls) served with Nuoc Leo (Peanut Sauce), a traditional Vietnamese appetizer. We were highly disappointed with this order. The Shrimp Salad Summer Rolls barely had any shrimp in them, and every bite had an excessive amount of mint leaves and cilantro. The Peanut sauce wasn’t much better. Normally the peanut sauce should have a slight twist of a sugary taste with a kick of garlic. This peanut sauce tasted only like peanuts.
Not yet ready to give up on the restaurant, my friend and I pressed on and ordered our dishes. I got the Pho with the Eye Round Steak and Brisket, while my friend got Bun Thit Nuong (Rice Vermicelli with Charbroiled Pork). Both dishes were prepared extremely quickly—in less than 10 minutes to be exact. The meat in my pho was so soft and juicy; I didn’t know until that day that Pho meat could taste like that. There was also a generous serving of noodles and meat. Unlike the other pho restaurants in the area, the soup did not taste like it had been laced with an overabundance of MSG. My friend’s Bun Thit Nuong was also great. The few bites I had of her charbroiled pork did not disappoint. I could still taste the grill from the juice of the meat…mmm yum.
The environment of the restaurant is satisfactory. Apart from the smell of incense that quickly disappears, bright chandeliers complement the cleverly painted orange walls (the color orange stimulates appetite) nicely. An HD TV is constantly steaming ESPN while waiters, who are also dressed in orange, scurry around severing customers. The waiter we had, Steve, was also very nice. He knew a lot about the foods they served there and even took the time to crack a few jokes with me.
At the end of our meal, our bill came out to a little under 19 dollars, a very reasonable price for our three orders. Despite the subpar summer rolls, the main entrées definitely made Pho So No. 1 the best Vietnamese restaurant in South Jersey. I highly recommend going there.