It's been over five years since I posted on Pho Hoa...well this Pho Hoa, not that Pho Hoa, so I figure it was time for another post on what I consider the oldest, of the old school type pho shops in San Diego.
Not much has really changed except the prices have gone up a buck. The low ceilings, sticky tables, banquet chairs, rather dark atmosphere......a great place for a zombie apocalypse horror movie set. For some reason, on this day, it smelled kind of dank in the place. In shops like these you can usually smell the "Eau de Pho"....on this day the place just smelled off.
Still, the place was the same in most ways. Like the placement of the bean sprouts, herbs, and lime on the table along with the menu.
I guess this kind of makes sense since what else are you going to order here? They do pho. Unlike the decor and atmosphere, everything on the plate is sparkling fresh, especially the Ngo Gai (culantro) and the amounts were generous, totally the opposite of most places these days.
The bowl was a perfect illustration of the inconsistency of the place. A couple of months back I visited for a quick bowl. I was in a rush so didn't bother to take photos. That bowl had a decent beef flavor, decent fat, with perhaps a bit too much MSG. This bowl was fiercely defatted, though the color was dark and clear. The flavor had a mild beefiness to it but was over-shadowed by an unpleasant burnt bitterness. The noodles were overcooked and mushy as well. The protein was decent, especially the flank and brisket cuts, as well as the tripe. The tendon was a mixed bag, a couple of moderately tender pieces and a few pieces tough as a rubbah' slippa'. That has been Pho Hoa's M.O. over the years. Though the place is the model of consistency in other areas; the efficient service that borders on indifference and that old and worn atmosphere that seems to be beloved by the old timers who eat here.
Pho Hoa Restaurant
4717 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92115