It has been a fairly "schizoid" winter, temperature close to 80 and sunny one day, cloudy, cool, with sprinkles the next.....and forget about following the weather reports. Storms that should arrive in 3 days, arrive in 2, upon hearing sunny, you automatically pack your umbrella. And what to do about conflicting reports, one website says sunny and high 60's, the other says cloudy with showers, temps in the high 50's? The Missus simply told me; "sigh...you're so glass half empty! I just believe the report that looks better." Okey, so following the Missus's lead, I wore short sleeves to work for the first time since mid-November. I think I can stop right here....you know what happened to the "glass half-full", it became totally filled with freezing rain. Man, I just needed a bowl of Pho......
I hadn't been to Pho Hoa in over 4 years, so I decided check them out. Now first off, just to be clear, this is not a "retread" post(coined by an FOY, who once wrote me, "when are you going to do posts of your retreads....." I think He meant revisits, but I've used the term retreads once in a while), this is Pho Hoa on El Cajon Boulevard, not to be confused with Pho Hoa Hiep, or Pho Hoa Huong, whose sign reads just Pho Hoa(confused enough?) both in Linda Vista. So I hope that clarifies things......
The years haven't been kind to this well respected Pho establishment, the cafeteria-like interior is starting to look very seedy. And for some reason, I feel that the ceilings of the place are closing in on me. For once I feel somewhat satisfied being "vertically challenged".
Lest you be mistaken that Pho Hoa has mellowed over the years, let me tell you right now. Pho Hoa still runs like a highly oiled machine; you are seated, a menu dealt to you, like you are playing a game of Texas Hold 'em, the Waiter stands at attention, pencil at the ready....."menus, you don't need no stinkin' menus!" You frantically point out what you want, it's better to do this right now, otherwise you'll end up ordering a bowl of "Fo". Any request for more time is met with a disapproving look, and the possibility of not seeing your waiter for quite a while. In contrast, I've found the Young Man who runs the register to be very pleasant.
Soon enough, the garnishes arrive:
Not very generous, but ok.....though the Ngo Gai(Saw leaf herb) looks like it's trying to escape!
I ordered the Rare Steak, Tendon(of course), Brisket(double of course), and tripe - extra large($6.25) since I was extra cold, and slightly wet....
The broth is darker and mildly rich, with a mild beefy punch, and hints of anise and clove. It runs on the salty side(MSG?). The rare steak is okay, slightly tough, but okay, the tendon is soft, not the wonderful, almost buttery tendon that I enjoy in my Pho, but close enough. The brisket is slightly chewy, but has a nice beef flavor.
The noodles were in the usual clump, and a bit on the soft and mushy side.
Overall, this was a nice remedy for the weather.
Just as a quick entry on how Pho can vary from visit to visit.......I dropped by a few weeks later and got a bowl of the Dac Biet (special - large - $5.85).
This time the broth was not quite as dark, and not as salty...and that beautiful piece of tendon that graced the bowl! Unfortunately, the rare steak(Tai) tasted "off", metallic, and kind of rancid...so I pulled them out. The rest of the bowl was fine, and this time the noodles were not too soft. I should have got the rare steak on the side.......
Service here is usually fast and efficient, and the "guys" are a bit less stoic than I remembered. Not bad, I'd gladly eat here again, though I'll dance cautiously around that rare steak, though I think it was a "fluke".
Pho Hoa Restaurant
4717 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92115