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Best Noodles/Pho: The sequel beats the original 

Pho Pasteur II

Vietnamese pho parlors seem to love numbers. Pho 84, say, or Pho Hoa Hiep II, or the best pho joint in America, Pho 67 in LA's Chinatown. Are their owners afraid that being number one will bring bad luck? We've never figured out where Pho Pasteur I is, or whether it even exists, and you know what? We don't care. Eating at PPII may make you feel like you're back at summer camp: On a weekend day you have to squeeze your way into a spot at one of the dining-hall tables (remember the table number, because you'll need it to get your check at the counter). Stare at the photos of the dishes along the wall, until the steam rising off your neighbors' bowls of soup sets off the Pavlovian drool. PPII stocks all the basics -- cold bun, rice plates, imperial rolls -- but the house specialty pho is a panacea for all that ails you, with anise- and shallot-scented beef broth, slithery little rice noodles, and eight kinds of beef, including raw tenderloin, cooked flank, silvery tendon, and crunchy book tripe. Slurping is permitted.

Readers' Pick:
Pho 84
354 17th St., Oakland, 510-832-1338

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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