I thought I'd better hurry and do this post before temperatures hit the high eighties and low ninties that the weather folks said is coming up this week. Over time, I've stopped ordering Pho Tai.... rare steak, simply because everyone in San Diego uses a very low grade cut, and it really doesn't matter if you get the beef on the side, in the soup, or on top of your head for that matter, it all ends up being tough and tasteless. Filet Mignon Pho is a whole different story, and I've been waiting for a good long while for what I had at Pho Thanh Lich to make it's way to San Diego. So I was quite happy to see the sign for Mignon Pho go up at the end of August. And yet, there was that little seed of doubt that the name of the place was just a tease..... so of course I had to find out.
Mignon Pho + Grill's grand opening was this past weekend. There was a week long soft opening while I was away........
The interior of Mignon is very clean and modern. High ceilings, wood panelings, and of course, two large plasma televisions complete things. I like the decor, but the high ceilings tend to make things echo, and the hardwood paneling reflect sound, making it a pretty loud dining area.
Pho prices here are on the high side, starting at $6.50 for a regular bowl with two proteins. A bowl of Filet Mignon Pho goes for $8 for a regular size and $9 for a large sized bowl. I went for something called a "trolley bowl", which would probably be called Dac Biet in other places..... a combination of meats. The regular bowl went for $7.95. When my bean sprouts and herbs arrived, I quickly noticed that this place goes for the modern "big plate" approach. Everything is served on, or in large plates and bowls. I will say that the herbs were extremely fresh, especially the Ngo Gai (Culantro/Saw Leaf Herb).
And of course I went for a side order of Filet Mignon on the side, which cost $1.75 more, for three slices of Filet.
The meat was super fresh, and cut to just the right thickness.
Soon enough, my bowl arrived.
I loved the look of the broth, medium dark and clear. The really nice young lady who served me said it was simmered for sixteen hours. I think a bit more oil/fat would make for a richer broth. In spite of the looks I found the broth to be very mild, and lacking in character. And even though I knew that this broth wouldn't have strong anise or clove accents based on a sniff of the soup, it was also a bit mild in the beef department as well. On the good side, I could tell instantly that this broth wasn't MSG laden. The one aspect that I thought could have instantly improved this was the temperature of the broth. The Filet Mignon is cut a bit thicker than the usual Rare Beef Eye of Round. It should be eaten just barely "colored", letting the beef sit in the broth will just cause it to seize and get more chewy than it should be. Warm broth makes you leave the meat in the broth too long causing it to cloud the soup and get tough. This was probably one of the smallest portions of noodles I've ever had, and it was a bit over-cooked edging on mushy.
The meats were pretty good, especially the tendon which was very soft and buttery. Unfortunately, there was much too little of it in the bowl.
The beef meatballs, usually not my favorite were also pretty good.
This bowl of Pho went over the ten dollar mark with tax..... on the high side for a fairly small bowl. I'll probably have this again, but I'm going for the brisket and tendon with a side filet.
One thing about this restaurant; all the young folks working on this day were very cheerful, polite, and just plain nice. In fact, the young lady who served me took some time to chat with me. She was very proud of the quality of the ingredients as well as how the food was prepared. I was told that I should come back and try the Com Tam, which she preferred over the Pho. And just based on her enthusiasm and attitude, I returned a day later for lunch and went with Broken Rice with Shredded Pork (Bi), Egg Meat Loaf (Cha) and Pork Chop ($7.50):
The rice was cooked perfectly, fairly soft and moist. Even though I think it could have been more fragrant, it's still the best I've had in San Diego.
The best item on the plate was the steamed egg, perhaps a bit on the dry side, but full of savory flavors. I was disappointed that it was only the size of a petit four. Notice the scale of the Cha and the spoon next to it.
The pork chop was fairly tender, and better then most versions in San Diego, though not quite on the level of Pho King. It wasn't very salty, and was perhaps a bit too mildly flavored. The Bi was too dry, and lacked the usual nutty-savory-porkiness that good versions have.
On this day, the service was again very friendly..... that may just bring me back again.
On both visits, I noticed quite a few older folks eating here.... I think they were just like me; curious to see how Mignon was going to be. It would be interesting to see if they return. Mignon Pho + Grill seems to be going for a bit higher quality food, served in a modern environment. Personally I don't think Mignon Pho has delivered food prepared at the level I expected, but they've just opened so hopefully things will improve over time.
Mignon Pho + Grill
3860 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111