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By Corinne Asturias

Dac Phuc
198 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose

THE DAY IS GRAY, and as the wind whisks the leaves into curling swirls above the street, it mimics an image of comfort for the chilled lunch seeker: long tender noodles twirling on a pair of chopsticks, rising out of a steaming broth. Make no mistake, Vietnamese noodle soup, known as pho, is life-sustaining food for the sun-starved days ahead. And Dac Phuc reigns supreme, ladling up a savory broth, brimming with noodles, bobbing with veggies and tasty barbecued meat or shrimp.

This Vietnamese diner serves up more than soup, of course, and can get you a speedy order of cha gio (crunchy egg rolls, with tangy fish sauce for dipping) and an array of tempting rice plates and lunch combos. But the high point for many of the diners crowded into the unpretentious quarters on West Santa Clara Street is the pho, the Vietnamese mainstay of midday dining. Along with the clear broth and fresh noodles of your choice, you get a platterful of the requisite accompaniments of sliced hot pepper, lime, fresh basil and bean sprouts, which you can toss in as desired for added texture and taste. The small-sized bowl is more than enough for one person. Closed on Mondays, Dac Phuc draws a steady trickle the rest of the week, so if you're a little after prime time, so much the better. To finish off your meal, add a Vietnamese coffee, hot or cold With its double punch of caffeine and sweetened condensed milk, your chilly afternoon will become a snap.

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From the November 27-December 4, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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