Funny thing; much like last year, the only thing I really craved while on our trip was noodle soup....really. Not rice, but noodles. So of course when we returned I really needed to scratch that itch. Here are some of those v(re)visits.
Pho Convoy Noodle House:
One of the most convenient with regards to location from work. I've had some fairly decent Pho here before, so this was an easy choice.
It was kind of strange when I arrived. It was already past 11am, yet it looked like the place had just opened. I believe they open at 10? Chairs were still stacked up and the guys working here looked like they just woke up. I should have taken this as a bad omen.....
I ordered the #2 regular (well done steak, flank, fattybrisket, tendon, and tripe $5.65). Second bad omen, the first plate of garnishes arrived and looked like we were suffering from a basil shortage here in San Diego.......really, I got more basil and bean sprouts with my pho in Madison Wisconsin! So I asked if I could have a bit more basil and perhaps some Ngo Gai. The guy grunted and removed the entire plate......
Meanwhile, my bowl of Pho arrived.
It looked really light, like bad dishwater, and man was it salty. The noodles were adequate, the protein mediocre, with just one tiny little dime sized piece of tendon. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for my basil....which finally made it's appearance about five minutes later. In retrospect I should have taken a photo. It was a brand new("different") plate which I guess they switched out. Still no Ngo Gai, blackened basil, and this time the bean sprouts were brown....taught me for asking for something here. Perhaps all their energy has gone into the second location in Chula Vista? Or was it a bad day? I dunno......
Pho Convoy Noodle House
4647 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111
Always one of my favorites, I decided on going here early one weekend morning.
I went with the flank, brisket, tendon and tripe....spelled "stripe" on the menu......
The broth looked nice and dark, not too salty on this visit; mild beef flavor, with hints of onion, a bit lighter in the anise than I recall. On my last couple of visits, they had gotten into the habit of overcooking their noodles; bot on this trip...it was nice, firm with a bit of stretch.
The protein was a bit scarce, but was never their strong point. Still, one of my favorite bowls.......
9326 Mira Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92126
Pho Cow Cali:
Mean, on the other hand, has never been an issue at the competition right across the street at Pho Cow Cali.
Man check out how much basil they gave me! Looks like an entire bush! Talk about the opposite of Pho Convoy.....
Some of it was going kind of brown, but you enough to choose from that it wasn't a problem.
Basically the same item as Lucky; but of course it looked like twice the meat.
The last couple times I've been here; the broth has been kind of weak, though it does let the flavor of the cilantro and scallions come through a bit more. I do prefer something a bit more beefy and assertive in flavor. I'm thinking that's not a big deal for a lot of the customers here, like the three Korean guys on the table next to me who almost used up the entire bottle of Sriracha and Hoisin, then asked for onions. Pho Jjim I guess? Or perhaps some hamajang ganjang?
I think folks at "Da' Cow" do a really nice job with tripe, as it's usually quite good, nice crunch with no off-tasting soapy flavor. The flank and brisket are usually good as well, full of flavor and just tender enough. Not my favorite tendon, but still good.
Still in my top three......
Pho Cow Cali
9170 Mira Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92126
Still, even Lucky and Cow Cali had me wishing for a bowl from say......Pho 86, Pho Kimmy, or Pho Thanh Lich. Which had me wondering; most of the Pho places make their broth very mild, except for salt and MSG. Do you think this is specifically done this way in San Diego? I realize that there's a bit of a chasm in terms of flavoring in San Diego. The older Vietnamese prefer something a bit stronger in flavor; the younger generation goes for something more hip, lighter in flavor, and focus a lot on decor. So is San Diego creating it's own "pho not to offend"? Or am I just going crazy?????