Enter Phở Bắc Súp Shop—the new Vietnamese restaurant in Little Saigon—and you get the sense of aesthetics giddily colliding. The space, from austere signage to bare concrete floor, feels very warehouse chic. But you sit down and the bar is made of the specific white granite-esque material that seems to exist only in International District restaurants, and there’s the slight fluorescent cast to the lighting, kicked up with splashes of neon and blue bar backlights. A resolutely un-Edison glow. Hip-hop plays on the stereo, with Goodfellas on one big TV, basketball on the other.
Maybe the place is best typified in one of its cocktails—as per the menu: “No Rules Moscow Mule / Copper is too expensive so served in a Stainless Steel Mug… / Rum, Chili Oil, Basil, Ginger Beer.” It’s not really a Moscow Mule (vodka, ginger beer, lime—I won’t fault you if you dig a mint sprig), but semantics are kind of beside the point. It’s essentially some of the flavors of phở turned into a cocktail that pairs perfectly with, you guessed it, phở.
Generally I don’t drink cocktails with meals because the liquor tends to overwhelm nuance. But here the fire and beefbone flavors can take it. The notes are echoed in each other—ginger, lime, chili oil, thai basil—but everything else is contrast. The phở rich and warm and salty, while the drink is all ice cubes and sweet effervescence and citrus slash. Finish a sip and you’re rejuvenated, ready for another bite of beef tendon and jalapeño. Both together run you $20—$9 for the cocktail, $11 for a large pho—which in the middle of a drenching Seattle winter is about as satisfying a twenty as you can spend.