Looking back, I guess I do about one of these a year. In 2009 it was Pho around Rancho Bernardo in 2010 it was Oceanside. 2011 just came and went so quickly, so to get back on track, I decided to drive up to Escondido to try a couple of places a few folks, like my buddy JohnL and occasional commenter DavidD mentioned.
Pho Saigon Express:
This is probably the one I hear about most often. I'd actually been here before, but my photos didn't turn out. So it was time to head back here again.
Having been here before, I knew that the "Tai", rare steak was pretty much the standard for the San Diego area....tough and dry. So I went with the Flank, Brisket, Tendon, Tripe. A small bowl here runs $5.99.
I was a bit surprised when my herbs and bean sprouts arrived...actually, it was more like herbs and bean sprout. Who hit the tightwad button? I asked for more sprouts and never got them. Sigh....also whats's with the lemon instead of lime? It's kind of sad thinking that I got more basil and sprouts in Madison than here.
The Pho itself is not bad.
The noodles were quite mushy, but other than that, this was a decent bowl. The broth was light and could have used a bit more beef flavor, but it wasn't too salty. The various cuts were the highlight, well flavored and tender. Against stereotype, there was also a good amount of tripe in this as well.
Overall decent Pho, lousy service.......
Pho Saigon Express
605 N Broadway
Escondido, CA 92025
Pho Lena & Grill Vietnamese Restaurant:
A bit further East on East Valley Parkway is Pho Lena and Grill Vietnamese Restaurant....man, that's a mouthful. The restaurant looks quite new and compared to Pho Saigon, the place was empty when I arrived. Looking at the menu, I noticed something strange......the exact item I ordered at Pho Saigon had exactly the same number (P4) and price ($5.99) here......
The plate of herbs and sprouts was much more than Pho Saigon and there was even a sprig of Ngo Gai, albiet a pretty old looking leaf.....
The broth here was much darker here, though still on the light side with regards to oil. The portion size was quite large for a small bowl.
The broth was pretty salty, good thing they actually have lime here. I got a strong onion flavor along with a sort of burnt flavor from the broth. The rather large portion of noodles was prepared well. The meat wasn't quite up to what I had at Pho Saigon in flavor a texture, though as you can tell by the amount of tripe, there was a decent amount of it. The one item that was better here was the beef tendon, which was sufficiently tender.
Overall, I tihnk it's a bit of a wash between the two places in terms of broth. Meat goes to Saigon, portion size to Lena. Service was much nicer at Lena.
Pho Lena & Grill Vietnamese Restaurant
1535 E Valley Pkwy
Escondido, CA 92027
So there you go, two more down...... so where to next? Vista? I know there's Pho San Marcos? You tell me......