During the 1930s, Vietnamese poet Tu Mo published an ode to pho. The poem centered around the beloved national dish and doubled as a call for independence from French colonizers. He praised the soup, highlighting its internationally renowned flavors and street food prices. And in the poem’s final lines, he makes this (loosely translated) proclamation: “Living in this world without eating pho is foolish.”

After not having pho for a minute, I rectified my foolishness by trying Bowl and Plate at White Shallot, a cozy spot in a shopping center kitty-corner from Santana Row. When entering, snag a menu to customize pho orders.

I went with a beef broth ($5), a bit of fatty brisket ($3) and a few halved meatballs ($2). After long hours of steeping bones, the broth arrived cloudy and with deep flavor. The long, flat rice noodles provided satisfying slurps. The meatballs possessed a pliant texture, thanks in part to the inclusion of some tripe—tasty if one can get over their intestinal origin. The thin-sliced brisket came laced and ringed with fat. Garnished with cilantro and green onions, the satisfying soup mingled fresh and slow-cooked flavors.

As a side, their Green Papaya Salad ($8) came accompanied by two beef rolls. They slice the young papaya while it’s tangy and starchy into thin strands, then dress it with a vinaigrette that had teriyaki and nutty notes. I’d order this dish anywhere that serves it. White Shallot helped their rendition stand distinct with their beef rolls—strips of flash-grilled rib-eye steak wrapped around the crunchy blanched hearts of white shallots.

On the non-pho half of their menu, they serve grill plates. I went with the sampler platter and a side of Jasmine Rice ($13). The platter’s supporting characters included the beef roll, a grilled chicken breast and a excellently cooked mini-slab of salmon that had been painted with a sweet barbecue sauce.

Runner-up was the baby back rib that came away clean from the bone and had hints of ginger in its dry rub. The big winner was the grilled tofu. White Shallot transformed the flavorless soy pillow by charring the outside until it was crispy, then topping it with a tangy, spicy sauce that provided all the flavor needed for the spongy middle. I left, patting a full belly of Pho and thinking about the words of a modern American poet: “I pity the fool.”

Bowl and Plate at White Shallot 
3143 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose.