*** For updated content on Pho' you can check out our Pho category.
As promised, here's my Pho' retrospective. But first I made a stop at Phuong Trang:
*** An updated post on the Pho at Phuong Trang can be found here.
Why Phuong Trang? I know I've already done a post on Phuong Trang, but I consider the Pho' there to be the most "middle of the road" Pho'. Not too dark, not to much oil, no strong clove, anise, or cinnamon flavor. That's not to say I don't like it, I've eaten there on many occasions, and don't mind it at all. The Pho' is very accessible, and when someone who's never had Pho' asks me where to go, I sometimes recommend Phuong Trang for that reason as well.
Today's bowl is the Extra Large Combination($5.25). The rare steak is always a good bet here, and the brisket is usually pretty good. Today there was a shortage of tripe, and the beef flank was mostly inedible fat. I also find that Phuong Trang always provides a good amount of Basil, Bean Sprouts, and Jalapenos, at least for my taste. Though I've noticed that quantities have gotten smaller; also no Ngo Gai is provided. The noodles are usually just the right texture. So there you go, your perfect, consistent, middle of the road Pho'.
I've come to understand that Pho' preferences vary wildly from individual to individual. Even more then Banh Mi. Some like a lighter broth, some darker, some enjoy a good quantity of oil, while others are just plain grossed out by it. Some even want the soup brought at a scalding hot temperature, but another said that if the broth is too hot, you won't be able to eat it, and the noodles will get too soft. I won't even get into the various cuts of meat! You get the point, right?
So I'll just list the bowls, and tack on a short impression, and maybe some notes..... All bowls are of the "combination"(Dac Biet).
September 11, 2005 - Convoy Noodle House
*** An updated post on the Pho at Convoy Noodle House can be found here.
Impressions: A darker-full bodied, broth, stronger clove flavor. Meats are routine and are sometimes inconsistent. Skimpy garnishes, no Ngo Gai.
Notes: One of my regular stops, I like the broth, and usually a good quantity of meat.
Convoy Noodle House
4647 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111
January 16, 2006 - Pho Hoa Hiep
Impressions: Lighter broth, the flavor of the cilantro, green onions, and garnishes(including Ngo Gai) come through. Love the tendon here, also usually a very generous amount of tripe. Didn't care for the rare steak. Noodles were the normal clump.
Notes: On a subsequent visit, the soup was exactly the same, so looks like a very consistent bowl.
Pho Hoa Hiep
6947 Linda Vista Road
San Diego, CA 92111
February 5, 2006 - Pho Ca Dao (El Cajon Boulevard Location)
Impressions: Broth a shade richer then Pho Hoa Hiep. Lot's of green onions and cilantro for flavor, which was very balanced. Tendon at Pho Ca Dao, is my favorite, generous amount of brisket, though a bit too fatty. Rare steak was on the tough and dry side. Quantity of garnish on the small side.
Notes: Though I usually have the Bun Bo Hue here, I think the Pho' is pretty good.
Pho Ca Dao
5223 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92115
March 1, 2006 - Pho' Cali
Impressions: If you're in Mission Valley and must have a bowl of Pho', this is your only choice. Broth had medium oil content, slight anise flavor in medium-light broth. On my visit, the noodles were a cold clump in the bottom of the bowl. Very skimpy on the garnishes, and I didn't care for the meat, rare steak and tendon was tough. The broth is okay, though.
1400 Camino De La Reina #105
San Diego, CA 92018
March 19, 2006 - Pho Viet Cali
*** Pho Viet Cali has closed
Impressions: The Dac Biet was pretty expensive, $6.15. Terribly stingy on the garnishes. Light, unremarkable broth. In addition to all the "usual" cuts of beef, this bowl had meatballs. Overall, lot's of meat, generic broth, a bit pricier.
Pho' Viet Cali
6755 Mira Mesa Blvd. #113
San Diego, CA 92121
March 28, 2006 - Lucky Pho'
Impressions: Darker broth, with a hint of anise and clove. Oil content varies; on this trip it was low, on another slightly higher. Noodles are routine, but good. The meats are not the best, and are on the inconsistent side, some days the tendon is very tough, likewise with the brisket, etc. Adequate garnishes, with Ngo Gai.
Notes: This broth is to my taste, and that is the main reason I return. The meat at Pho Ca Dao and Pho Hoa Hiep are better.
Lucky Pho' in Lucky Seafood Supermarket
9326 Mira Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92126
May 10, 2006 - Bolsaa Vietnamese Restaurant
*** Bolsaa has since closed
Impressions: The garnishes are adequate. Broth on the light side, with low oil content. I found the rare steak to be good, but the rest of the meats were on the tough and dry side. Noodles were fine, not mushy and not too chewy.
Notes: On this visit, the broth was very salty; though I've been informed that it was probably a "glitch".
Bolsaa Vietnamese Cuisine
4646 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111
Well there it is, and those in San Diego probably have noticed that many of the popular Pho' establishments, such as Pho Hoa Huang, Pho Van, Pho Hoa Cali, Pho T Cali, and so on, have not been "represented". All in due time. And maybe I'll have enough bowls of Bun Bo Hue soon to do a retrospective on that as well.
Until then; like DietChiliCheeseFries always says - "Eat the Pho!!!!"