The Brothers Than get the essentials of hearty Vietnamese soup right: the full choice of beef cuts, from flank and brisket to tripe, and those surprisingly tasty rubbery meatballs; ample basil and bean-sprout garnish; noodles served however you say “al dente” in Vietnamese; prices that beat Mickey D’s; and, most important, the soul-soothing, star-anise-laced broth that is the essence of pho. And the Thans have played three aces: They’ve kept up quality and authenticity even in the North End. They offer a rare, guilt-free vegetarian passport to pho heaven, with straw mushrooms and fried tofu. And they give every soup sipper a free, if oddly timed, appetizer—a miniature cream puff, recalling the long history of culinary crossovers between France and Vietnam. Eight locations within the purview of our geographical reach (and three more outside it) keep the region amply covered.