*** Viet Bakery and Pho has closed
Viet Bakery and Pho opened pretty quickly, at least I thought they were open before they actually were. The Missus was in the mood for something new and She wanted to check this place out. Located in the same strip mall as Izakaya, Sakura, The Original Pancake House, Swabummm Shabu World, and Yokohama Yakitori Koubou, among others, this place is literally bursting at the seams and now has a parking problem to boot as the Missus and I parked on street a few yards away.
I really didn't know what the "bakery" portion of the name of the place meant....would it be a Banh Mi and Pho joint, or what? Well the bakery really does sell Vietnamese baked goods, though there are just four shelves lining part of the wall on the west side of the place.
To my surprise the menu was full of interesting items like Banh Cuon, Banh Bot Loc, and Banh Beo in addition to Pho. Unfortunately, they didn't have a couple of things on the menu, the nice young man serving us had to check to see if they had the items we ordered. I finally relented and took his advice for what I ordered. The folks looked confused and for a good amount of time were gathered around the cash register....I'm guessing trying to figure out how it worked I guess? They were constantly looking at the rather small menu, trying to remember dishes.....things that should have probably been worked out before actually opening to the public.
Luckily they had what the Missus wanted, the combination of appetizers - Banh Beo, Banh Duc, Banh Bot Loc, and Banh It ($5.99). When it arrived we were a bit puzzled by the look of some of the items.
We especially found the Banh Beo, something we've had many times, both in San Diego and in Little Saigon were just plain odd to us. Not enough dried shrimp for a nice savory flavor, the usually toothsome discs were gelatinous, like eating plain rice cake. The Banh It, which I haven't had in a while had a greasiness to it. The best of the lot was Banh Bot Loc the tapioca flour dumpling stuffed with shrimp, which was still on the bland side and missing the smokey, tea like flavor of being steamed in banana leaves. The best thing was the nuoc mam cham, which was surprisingly spicy with a nice fish sauce kick.
After going back and forth a couple of times I settled on the Com Goi Ga, the Rice with Chicken Salad - Com Goi Ga Xe Phai (Ga Xe Phay - $6.99). This came with some broth and supposedly garlic rice.
I say supposedly, because that has got to be some of the worse rice I've had in a while. I ended up pouring the broth over the hard and dry rice, then stealing the Missus's nuoc mam. The chicken tasted, well not to be insulting but the only thing I can really think of is.......dead, it really was bland and not very pleasant. On the good side, the salad was full of banana blossom that was fresh and shiny, likewise the rau ram and other herbs. It did have too much onion in it, the Missus kept telling me to eat breath mints the entire way home....but it was good.
In the end, I didn't think it was good to not visit again....we could possibly write this off to opening jitters; the young man who brought me my order was shaking so bad we thought he was going to drop everything......when I tried to pay with a twenty they suddenly found themselves without changet. I can only imagine how stressful it was....we saw customers coming back in with orders that were incorrect or missing items.
So I decided to return and this time got what I had wanted in the first place, the Banh Cuon Dac Biet ($6.75). This time, even though the place was pretty much full, things were moving much better, but alas, what I ordered was not.
Everything fried on the plate was dry, limp, and greasy, like it had been fried at the wrong temperature. The Cha Lua, defatted pork sausage was chewy, but had a decent flavor. The Banh Cuon were on the thick side and fairly dry. Unfortunately, I'd place Quoc Te and even Song Huong ahead of this. Heck even a middle of the pack Little Saigon joint like Banh Cuon Tay Ho is miles beyond this...to say nothing of what we had in Vietnam.
It's kind of sad, the young folks working here are really nice, ut they don't seem to have any restaurant experience or someone to train them. We really do need a place in San Diego that does the type of dishes we tried well. Hopefully, they'll get better.....
Lunch and dinner is now 30% off so you may want give them a shot and let me know what you think. After I sent a text to my good FOY "Xiang Jiao", she asked me if I tried the Pho. The only reply I could send to her was, "right now, I'm not brave enough......."
Viet Bakery & Pho
3904 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111