Every now and then we give Kirk a breather from recounting his food adventures at home and abroad, and bring you a post from one of the other mmm-yoso bloggers. This time it's mizducky's turn. Enjoy!
Howdy folks--mizducky here, feeling a little sheepish reviewing a local San Diego Vietnamese restaurant after Kirk has been documenting cobra hearts, snake wine, and all sorts of more bodacious foods back in the motherland. But hey, just consider it cultural compare-and-contrast
Anyway, I had noticed the tell-tale banners announcing yet another new restaurant opening--this time on one of the storefront spaces in the big pink building in the middle of Little Saigon on El Cajon Blvd., just a couple doors down from Pho King. And as if in homage to that joint's "punny" name, this new place also seemed to be going for the name humor:
Oh yeah? Okay. I'll bite.
I found the inside, again like its cutely-monikered neighbor, to be nicely furnished, with freshly painted walls in an assertive shade of pink plus several large flat-screen TVs. Each was tuned to a different station--CNN, sports--but the only one with the sound on was the one behind the front counter, playing Vietnamese variety programming.
This place has a mid-length menu as Vietnamese places go, with some interesting omissions and inclusions. No beef pho at all, just three varieties of chicken pho. A whole bunch of other soup and noodle specialties, though, including those hu tieu mi (bean thread plus egg noodle) combos also featured at Pho King, as well as Ban Canh, Bun, Banh Hoi, and more. They have various rice plate variations too (com tam, com chien, etc.).
But the thing I really made a note of right off was the banh kot. I had been introduced to these wonderful little pancake/omelette/dumpling thingies at this year's San Diego Tet Festival, and I was looking forward to having a ready source of them near at hand.
THe first time I visited O'Yea, though, I was hungry and wanted something more filling than a snack of banh kot, so I decided to check out their Bun Bo Hue:
This arrived looking like a million bucks. Alas, the broth was a plain mild chickeny broth, not what I'd come to love in bun bo hue broths. Meanwhile, the meats were just okay--a reasonable amount of brisket that could have been a tad more tender, a meatier-than usual slice of pork hock, cubes of pork blood on deck but no tendon or tripe to be seen ... but all that said, the price was only five bucks. For a decent bowl of soup, that's nothing to sneeze at. Plus they had shrimp paste among the table condiments, so using that plus some sriracha I seasoned my soup to be a little closer to what my mouth had been anticipating.
Next time I visited, I decided to check out one of the hu tieu mi dishes.
This is Hu Tieu Mi Thap Cam, a combo including thin slices of beef liver, brisket, and fishcake; halved fish balls; a couple chunks of "krab" surimi; shrimp (nice and not overcooked); and squid (a bit rubbery); the greens included plain lettuce (greenleaf, I think). The broth was again light and unremarkable; the noodles were acceptable. This one cost a whole $5.50. Again, while not fabulous, an honest bowl of soup for a good price.
Third time's the charm--I hit them mid-afternoon and was just hungry enough for a snack.
So here are the banh kot. Aren't they dear? And look at the lovely browned edges. They were admittedly a bit greasy--if I remember correctly, the little cups in which these are cooked are generously greased with melted butter--but very good, each creamy-centered eggy little cake containing a nice chunk of shrimp, plus a sprinkling of scallions. Not pictured is a little bowl of very good nuoc cham with a nice little chile kick. And again, five bucks for the lot.
So ... I'm not so sure I'll make the two soups I've tried so far regulars--though I may give them each one more try in case it was just a matter of new-kitchen adjustment. But the banh kot are definitely worth a repeat performance, and encourage me to check out more of the menu to see if there are other hidden gems. I should add that the staff and management of this place are very friendly and welcoming, so I definitely want them to succeed, and wish them the best in their new venture.
O'Yea! Vietnamese Cuisine
4660 El Cajon Blvd #102
San Diego CA 92115
Open 7 days, 8:00am - 10:00pm