I'm not quite sure how it happened; but it seems I'm back working weekends again just to keep up with our backlog. On the bright side; this means I can take a (usually) traffic free drive to grab an early (or late) lunch. One of my acquaintances, knowing that I really enjoy Vietnamese style Beef Stew - Bo Kho; recommended a place that recently opened in the mixed use Mercado de Barrio in Barrio Logan named Pho Bo.
Even though there's quite a few shops in the this center; parking was totally no problem. As was finding the shop; which in the typical new style has those garage like doors, and a nice modern, yet pseudo industrial (high ceilings) look.
I also enjoyed the fact that the A/C was going full blast on this very hot day. I had recommendations for three items; one of them was the Nem Nuong Cuon; those tasty grilled pork sausage spring roll that places like Brodard have made a staple. Sadly, I was told that the Nem Nuong was no longer available. I was also told that the Goi Cuon; the typical standard issue spring rolls were quite good; so I ordered it.
Sadly, this was just a whole lot of blandness as there were no herbs in the roll; the wrapper was hard and chewy, the pork was dry, and the shrimp had no flavor. The dipping sauce was your standard issue toung cham; hoisin-peanut kind of thing.
I hoped the Banh Mi Bo Kho would be better.
As you can quickly tell; the beef stew was on the thinner side; but man, look at that layer of oil on the top. Sometimes, it can really help a rich, hearty broth, but in this case, it just made the whole thing greasy. The broth was pretty salty; but lacked the pepper-tangy-anise tones I enjoy in the good Bo Kho. I used up the lime and all of the basil provided to help boost the flavor, but it was still mainly just salty.
The bread was interesting; I'm wondering who provided this as it was more dense and chewy than other banh mi I've had around San Diego.
There was a generous amount of tender beef; but no tendon provided.
Well, at least the service was fairly friendly.
I decided to return the following weekend to try out the other item that was recommended; the "Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings with Butter". Basically Butter Wings.
The amount of wings, 8 was decent for the price. These were on the smaller size; which I actually prefer for the good batter/skin ratio. Overall, these were on the bland side when it comes to butter wings. And the batter didn't have the crispness I enjoy; rather it was hard and got rather gummy quickly. There were several broken bones and a lot of blackened meat as well.
I also order the Pho Dac Biet.
As you can see; a nice portion of basil; but it was turning black and there were holes and tears in the leaves.
The noodles were nicely done; though in the typical clump at the bottom of the bowl.
As for the proteins; the rare steak was the typical top round; which gets tougher the longer it "cooks" in the broth. Luckily, it arrived before being well done. Both the flank and the brisket were fine, nicely done, not tough, nor falling to pieces, good beef flavor. Surprisingly, the meat balls weren't too rubbery or hard. Not bad in terms of protein. But you can tell who the target audience of this bowl is just by what was absent. Tendon and tripe....
Nice service, very clean and modern.
1985 National Ave (In the Mercado de Barrio)
San Diego, CA 92113
Open Daily 9am - 9pm
I did like this location; really interesting. CC has a post on Oi Asian Fusion which is next door.
Man, it looks like things are really looking up in this area!