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Pho the love of Beef: Pho Clement

Updated: Pho Clement has closed and is now reopened as Good Noodle Restaurant. I don’t know if it’s under the same ownership or not.

Apparently, they were involved in a labor suit for not paying employees overtime and the fines exceeded $300,000! I don’t know if is the same ownership or not, but I’ll bet they either let their employees go home on time or are most certainly paying overtime now!

 

SF FOOD Restaurant Review: PHO CLEMENT in San Francisco
My standard pho with rare steak and extra tendon

On a rainy day, or when you’re hungover (not to imply that I am ever hungover, of course), or even when you’re just sick — there’s very little in the world that is better than soup that your mom makes for you. 

But when you can’t have that — there’s Pho.

Thank God for pho!

It fascinates me to find people in the state of California who actually do not know what Pho is, or have never tried it. 

Listen up if you’re one of them:  YOU HAVE TO TRY PHO.

You don’t have to opt for the rare beef like I did in this photo if you have issues with that. You can, in fact, opt for whatever you want — the combinations are endless.  Pho is a beef-based soup with rice noodles in it.

SF FOOD Restaurant Review: PHO CLEMENT in San Francisco
Veggies on the side

It’s served with lime, basil, jalapenos, and bean sprouts on the side; a small amount of cilantro is usually added into your soup unless you request otherwise. While great pho can easily be had in Westminster, CA (Little Saigon), or even in San Jose and Santa Clara, I have found a really good bowl of pho hard to find in San Francisco. 

There are exactly four places that I will visit:  Turtle Tower, Pho Vietnam (for late-night), PPQ (though rarely because it’s so far out there in the Sunset), and when convenient, Pho Clement, which is what this review focuses on.

All of these places have the same rice noodles cooked properly, but more importantly, their broth is exactly as it should be. While Turtle Tower’s appeal is the chicken broth, and it’s also a Northern Vietnam style pho, the others (all Southern, and more common) offer a good to great beef broth. In regards to the rare beef at Pho Clement, it cooks instantly when mixed into the hot soup.

First, squeeze the lime into your soup.  Toss in some sprouts, rip off some basil leaves, and if you’re me, you ask for even more jalapenos to put into your soup. You can then pour a bit of the duck sauce, always offered as one of the condiments, into a small bowl (also always offered on the table) and use that sauce to dip your meats into.  In my case, I had tendons and beef to dip, though I dip it straight into Sriracha sauce that I put on the side.

SF FOOD Restaurant Review: PHO CLEMENT in San Francisco
Sriracha time!

Before you dig in, if you can handle it, you must pour in the Sriracha Sauce.  I eat spicier than anyone I know, and what is photographed was simply as display.  Multiply by about 10 and you will have the amount of Sriracha I put into my pho. It’s a bright red soup when I start eating! Pho is true comfort food, at least to Asians who use clear broth to feel better when sick. The creamy types of soup, like chowder or pea soup, are big no-nos to Asian palates when feeling ill; it’s always clear soup.  Hence, when pho was introduced to the Koreans, it took off like gangbusters.

SF FOOD Restaurant Review: PHO CLEMENT in San Francisco
The chicken soup base at Pho Clement with the optional egg noodles

I am proud to admit I was one of them — and since that first visit in 1991 or so, I was hooked.  This stuff is addictive.

Pho Clement offers a truly vast menu.  If you don’t want beef broth, you can order chicken broth.  If you don’t want rice vermicelli, you can order egg noodles, or flat noodles;  put in meat; take out meat; order rice; skip rice — you get the drift.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: there is, without a doubt, MSG in pho. 

But frankly, there is, without a doubt, MSG in almost everything that is served by restaurants.  If you’re absolutely deadset about not having MSG — do not eat pho. If you’re like me and can handle occasionally light abuse to the system, and battle a bit of lethargy for the sake of good taste — well, pho is your meal of choice!

In addition to these noodle soups, Pho Clement also has a good number of rice dishes, and some area really tasty — some are just mediocre.  Below, to the left was a lunch plate we ordered — and to the right is “Beef Stew with Rice” which looks better in the photo than it tasted. (Sorry, these were phone photos.)

SF FOOD Restaurant Review: PHO CLEMENT in San Francisco
Beef Stew with Rice
SF FOOD Restaurant Review: PHO CLEMENT in San Francisco
Beef plate with rice, egg and salad entree

Pho Clement is very economical and even in comparison to other pho restaurants, they are very fairly priced.  Located in the Richmond, it’s a pretty popular place for pho due to the fogginess in this neighborhood, not to mention that this area seems to always be about five to seven degrees cooler than the rest of the city.

SF FOOD Restaurant Review: PHO CLEMENT in San Francisco
Closeup of the beef

When I have a choice due to location and time of day or evening, I will most likely always opt to go to Turtle Tower, or PPQ.  But Pho Clement is always a safe choice, especially when in the Richmond and not wanting Chicken Pho but good ol’ regular beef pho.

Also, unlike other pho restaurants, service here is truly pleasant — although sometimes they are a bit too chatty.  Not only are they happy to see you, but when you request extra of something — they do not skimp and really give you extra.  I made the mistake of asking for extra tendon one time, and that was the first time in my life I realized that it is possible to eat “too much tendon”.

Talk about nausea!

Pho Clement also makes what is called “banh mi”.  In short, it’s a Vietnamese sandwich with pate or sliced meats, with marinaded carrots, jalapenos, with a spread of some sort on a submarine.  When this is good, it’s very good.  Having had Pho Clement’s — I can say it is, at best, just “okay”.

This rather spacious and friendly restaurant is located at 239 Clement Street, between 4th and 5th Avenue.  They are opened until 10 P.M. with their last seating being at 9:45 P.M.  There is a second location on Geary which I haven’t tried.  Parking can be crazy during the day on Clement Street, but I’ve gotten pretty lucky despite a busy lunch hour.  Expect to spend $10-12 per person, and you should not be surprised.  Portions are average for the small, and medium, the large is rather small, and the extra-large is enormous. 

In some homes, that bowl is the size of the sink.

Pho Clement also has Thai Iced Tea so make sure you order one of those — it’s delicious!

Service: 7.0/10 Ambiance: 5.5/10 Food: 6/10 Addictive Factor: 7/10 Overall Rating: 6.2/10

Grace Keh

Managing Editor

Grace Keh is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to San Francisco" and the critic, editor and photographer behind San Francisco Food. In her regular day job, she consults for corporate clients in marketing and event strategy. Once the sun sets, she's on the hunt for great food in what she considers to be one of the world's greatest cities, San Francisco.

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San Francisco Food® has been providing trusted restaurant reviews and recipes since 2009, led by food author Grace Keh & read by food lovers worldwide.

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