On those rare days when the mercury rises above 70˚ F (21˚ C) in San Francisco, N's and my default Short List choice is PPQ, which is abbreviated from Pho' Phú Quôc (1816 Irving Street at 19th Ave.). The reason we head to this Irving St. Vietnamese restaurant on warm, sunny days is not, however, for the hot beef noodle soup, pho', that is a part of its name (and in my opinion not as good as the pho' at Loi's up the street).
No, we go to PPQ when we are craving the cold noodle dish, bún. Bún are thin rice vermicelli-style noodles, usually served as a cold salad. At PPQ you can get your bún with charbroiled pork, beef, five-spice chicken, shrimp or meat balls. When your bowl of noodles arrives at the table, the various components are neatly arranged on top and then you toss the whole mess with a sweet-sour dipping sauce, nuoc cham.
My personal favorite bún is the charbroiled pork with Imperial rolls (no. 11 on the menu), bún chá giò thit nu'óng. The tender grilled pork adds smokiness, the deep-fried Imperial rolls add crispness, and the nuoc cham adds that perfect zip of sweet-salty-tangy-spicy that compels you to eat bite after bite until the bowl is empty. Like all the bún dishes on the menu, this one comes with shredded vegetables hiding under the noodles and is garnished with chopped peanuts, fragrant cilantro, caramelized garlic and shallots that add a whole other onslaught of flavors and textures.
PPQ also does a great version of green papaya salad with charbroiled beef and catfish simmered in salty caramel sauce in a clay pot. The atmosphere is simple and homey and the crowd is mostly locals, with a heavy dose of teenagers from nearby schools on weekends.