Just a few weeks after Cathy's most recent post on Van Hoa, the place changed ownership and Pho and Banh Cuon Ha Long was born. Banh Cuon? I've yet to have a good version in San Diego, so I was intrigued. And then our good "FOY" (Friend of Yoso) "YummyYummy" told me it was the same owners as Suong Hong and my excitement was tempered.
The place looks basically the same....a bit run down, sticky tables and all.
And the Banh Cuon Dac Biet ($7)? Well, you've read it before; banh cuon a bit too thick, lacking pull; the nuoc mam cham a bit too thin for my taste, the nem chua not quite sour or flavorful enough.
Not my cup of tea. But if you expect Song Huong, you'll be satisfied.
Still, the young lady was very nice......the guys hanging out front gave the place "that atmosphere", and I recalled the Bun Bo Hue at Song Huong being, well, not terrible. So I ordered it ($7.50) on my next visit.
This was an interesting bowl....from the ngo ngai topping the bowl, to the meatballs in the soup (I think it was there to replace MIA cha lua). The vegetables, though fresh really fell short; almost all shredded cabbage and bean sprouts.
The broth was scalding hot; a good start, mildly spicy, not very complex in terms of lemongrass and pungent flavors.
And the most annoying, the noodles seemed to be cut in half and thirds, making them very short......very slippery and short.....
A pleasant surprise was the two pieces of pork hock in this bowl. It was fun gnawing on the skin, connective tissue, and the toothsome, but not too tough meat. The pork was also nicely flavored, though the other pieces of meat fell short, and no tendon!
Like my other experience with BBH at this family's restaurants, not terrible, ok "pho shop Bun Bo Hue", but nothing amazing.
A week later I was in the area and being quite hungry, decided to drop by for a late breakfast (according to the sign, they now open a 6am!). I was going to try the pho, but chose the Com Tam Dac Biet instead. This was actually not bad; except the broken rice was too dry and hard for my taste.
The Bi with the flavor of the roasted rice coming through was good, though a bit dry. The Cha was on the cold side, dry, and more chewy than I care for. The pork chop had a very nice flavor; edging more on the salty than sweet, but other than that little nugget with the fat on the end, was also on the chewy side. The broth accompanying the meal was nice and rich, though it had a bit too much MSG for me.
Based on my meals, I'd definitely say YMMV here. Though if they're really open at 6am....heck, I'll need to try breakfast, right?
Pho & Banh Cuon Ha Long Restaurant
4016 54th St
San Diego, CA 92105