I've gotten into a habit of having noodle soup for breakfast. Check that; I crave noodle soup for breakfast on weekends. It's something that happened over time, but has become a bit of a habit. I'm not the only one with a weekend routine. When I rise and leave for work during the week, while it's still dark out, Da' Boyz won't even budge. They go outside, do their thing, and then it's back to sleep. During the weekend however, it's light and bright, they have a routine of their own. Most weekend mornings, I'll go for some of the quick errands; gas up the car, the ATM, Catalina Offshore, etc......and I'll take them with me. It's gotten to the point of them knowing and expecting this to take place. Sammy will sometimes stick his nose in the shower, with Frankie running around in the bathroom whining demanding their weekend "car ride". After that's done, I go for more of the errands, the "honey doo" things farther afield while the Missus is working or still sleeping. My reward? Some noodle soup. So here's a few recent bowls....I've posted on these places already, but thought it was time for another. No Mien Trung, even though they open at 9. I'm getting old, Bun Bo Hue is a bit too much for breakfast these days.
777 Noodle House:
My favorite $5.77 bowl - either Hieu Tieu Nam Vang or in this case Mi Trieu Chau. Basically the same dish, except one is with egg noodles.
777 Noodle House 4686 University Avenue San Diego, CA 92105
Pho Lucky 9326 Mira Mesa Blvd. San Diego, CA 92126
Open at 9 am
When you have a place in your regular rotation you sometimes notice things. Like the pair of pooches in the photo to the right. I've seen them at Nijiya a good half dozen times now. I have no idea who they belong to, but they sure are "regulars".
And then there are the odd things. Like the colander/strainer I saw in the men's urinal at Zion Market one morning. I'm sure it was doing a "similar job". I just hope it wasn't doing double duty.
Needless to say; I wasn't feeling like having anything to eat in the food court that morning. I also waited until I got home to use the restroom.....
We just got back from an overdue visit to Portland over the last couple of days. The very busy Cathy was kind enough to cover (as usual) for us. The somewhat ironic thing being, the weather when we returned from Portland, was more like Portland than Portland was....or something like that! Anyway, after feasting on foie gras and bone marrow (posts to come) having some soup was quite nice. So here's where I've been since we got back.
Something I've noticed over the last couple of years. As "Mom" gets older, the broth for the Bun Bo Hue sometimes is rather heavy handed with regards to MSG, or even spiciness. Such was the case on this day....not to say I didn't finish every lemongrass tinged drop of soup.
The Hen Xuc Banh Trang however, was a spicy-peppery-savory joy to devour.
Mien Trung Restaurant 7530 Mesa College Dr San Diego, CA 92111
I know, they've just opened and I'm doing a revisit post already.
Call me cynical, but I've been kind of down on pho in Kearny Mesa for a while so when I actually had what I thought was a decent bowl here, I had a hard time believing it wasn't a fluke.
So, on my return, I didn't order the rare steak, which was cut to thick, making it quite dry the last time, and just went with the brisket, flank, etc..... the brisket and flank were dry and tough; but the tendon was quite nice as was the tripe.
Of course, there was the broth.....for me broth is the key. This time it was a bit different; not quite as rich and still a touch too salty. The flavor however was pretty much the same mildly beefy, faint anise, strong shallot-onion. Not bad at all. The noodles were even prepared better this time and there was a more generous (and better quality) amount of herbs and sprouts.
So maybe there's decent pho to be had on Convoy after all.....
Pho Paradise 3904 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
Pho Nhu Y:
The weather had got me craving Bun Mam for some reason. I really didn't feel like heading to City Heights. So I headed over to Pho Nhu Y on Clairemont Mesa, which is run by the original owner of Nhu Y. I even went after the 3pm Bun Mam hour. They had declared Bun Mam off limits until after 3pm as to not offend their gringo lunch crowd. Anyway, I found, much to my disappointment that Bun Mam is no longer offered. Bummer....... So what to order? Heck, wanting some noodle soup, I went with the Bun Rieu ($8.75).
The bowl arrived scalding hot....and the positives stopped there. The soup was tasted like pho broth with a touch of tomato and a tiny bit of seafood flavor, but not enough to make it proper bun rieu. There were little crumbs of a meat paste which had no flavor...this was mainly cha lua and fried tofu. I call this "shadow soup"...where a noodle soup; like Bun Bo Hue/Bun Rieu/Bun Mang Vit is made to barely reference the true flavors.
Well....at least I wouldn't be "offending customers" right? I know this place can do better....
Pho Nhu Y Vietnamese Grill 5375 Kearny Villa Rd San Diego, CA 92123
So I've got a kind of new reader....I think. At least the person has been emailing me.....very entertaining emails......telling me I really don't "represent" what true San Diegans eat, or want to eat. Which perhaps is the point of the blog, right? Anyway, I got sent some photos of what, according to this reader, "real San Diegans" eat. And was asked why I don't post on stuff like that....... Great thing is, I can just use the photo sent to me:
Hot Dog....mmmmm. I actually enjoy hot dogs. Heck, I have a whole category devoted to them. Still, perhaps not this one; though it's a good bargain (much better when it was Hebrew National)....maybe one day, never say never, after all, I've had worse at Costco. Still, this makes me chuckle because it reminds me of my good FOY's (Friend of Yoso) "Xiang Jiao" (you can see her here taking a cleaver to a whole roasted pig we snuck into a karaoke room - as if you could really sneak a whole pig into one) road trip with "friends"....very frugal friends, who insisted on eating at every Costco they could find (they had it mapped out) along the way. Personally "XJ" is too sweet and patient....I would have mutinied....friendships would have been ended and blood (perhaps mine) would have been shed. But that's just me.......
As I said before; that logo looks a bit familiar, but I just can't place it.
In addition to the décor; the menu is typical of your neighborhood pho shop...pho, bun, rice......
I went with #3, rare steak, brisket, tendon, and tripe ($6.75). Man, when did pho hit the seven dollar mark? The Dac Biet here is like $7.75. Regardless, I liked the look of my bowl when it arrived.
Kind of sparse on the sprouts and herbs....but is that Ngo Gai I see? A rarity on the Mesa.....
The broth looked dark and rich, flecks of oil dotted the surface....the fragrance was quite "onion-ny". Nice first impression. The broth was mildly beefy, faint anise, onion-forward, though, as is the norm in San Diego, a bit heavy handed on the MSG. It was also super scalding hot.
The noodles were over-done and on the mushy side.
As for the proteins; the tendon was good, decent texture; the rare steak was cut too thick and dried out quickly in the broth. This was the most tripe I've seen in a bowl on the Mesa since forever.
The flank and brisket were unremarkable, both flavorless and on the dry side.
Still, it seems that these folks aren't just going thru the motions and are really trying to put out a good product.
A few days later I returned and tried the Banh Mi Bo Kho ($6.75). Man was this super dark.
This was too salty for my taste, it was also very thin, lacking in anise tones and any vestige of tomato flavor. The meat was on the tough and dry side.
I'd probably stick with the pho.
The young man and young lady who served me were very nice. I know I've been around a long time when I recognized Her from Van Hoa and K Sandwich...sheesh. The service here seemed a level above your typical pho shop. I like the hours, since my schedule often calls for an early lunch. This location seems to have some bad juju; in the course of two years it has been Viet Bakery and Pho, then V Bakery. I hope the place can break that spell. I also hope the pho is just as good, or heck, let's shoot for the moon, maybe even better next time around. You see, I'm not looking for a "pho paradise" here; just a decent bowl.
Pho Paradise 3904 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111 Hours: Mon - Sat 9am - 10pm Sunday 10am - 9pm
Funny, I always almost say "lavage" when I read the sign....not the most appetizing word. A couple of weeks ago FOY "Janfrederick" mentioned that Pho Viet Cali was no more in the comments of this post. I had always thought Viet Cali really made a mediocre and over priced bowl of pho. One day I had meetings fairly close by so I decided to drop by.
I forgot how large the restaurant was.
I liked the menu; which seemed to have quite a few dishes that I enjoy. On this visit, though, I decided just to go with the pho. As I usually do, I just went with the dac biet since it gives me a nice picture into how the various proteins are prepped. At $6.95 for a small bowl, it ain't cheap. It was even smaller than Viet Cali's seven dollar pho. The herbs were really skimpy and the lime had brown spots as did the basil. Also take a look at the size of the bowl of pho in comparison to the little plate of garnishes.
All comparisons to Viet Cali stopped at the price. This was a pretty good bowl. The broth was fairly dark, yet clear. It had decent fat/oil and a very light anise flavor, with a more pronounced onion thing going on. Not quite as good as Pho Lucky on a good day, but ok.
The meats were fine, one piece of the rare steak had a metallic taste to it. Most of it was unremarkable and there wasn't much of it either.
The one thing that was a pleasant surprise were how the noodles were prepped. This wasn't your usual clump of mushy, over cooked noodles. No, the noodles had been separated and were just perfect in texture.
Also, the folks who run this place; I'm thinking it's a family of four are really, very, very, nice. It made me want to return in spite of the rather low value level. So I dropped by the next chance I had and tried a couple of the appetizers I'd seen.
The Lavang Fried Chicken Wings ($8.95). It was a pretty little plate.
The sautéed peppers and onions brought very little to the dish in terms of flavor. The wings were he small type; which I actually kind of like since it makes for the perfect bite; a combination of crisp batter/skin/meat. This was adequately fried, but the sauce was way too sweet for me, without a nice savory punch that I would expect.
Wrapped too tight and hard, too much filler, the nem nuong was very bland and lost in everything. Could have used more herbs....oh and that sauce was watery and bland as well.
One evening a week or so later, I decided to drop by. The special that evening was one of my favorite dishes; Banh Mi Bo Kho ($7.95).
In some ways this was a pretty good version; lots of meat, the baguette nice and warm, the carrots perfect, not overcooked and mushy. I would have enjoyed a bit more anise tones and tanginess, but I know folks who don't. A good amount of black pepper in this and the broth was on the thin side....again, personal preferences at work. Like I said, tons of meat, cooked well, but not enough tendon for my taste. It is perhaps a bit more refined than the thick, rustic version I prefer.
But heck, this isn't bad by any means.
The owner told me to come back and try the Bo Luc Lac, so of course one evening, when the Missus was working, I dropped by to try it ($11.95).
Like some of the other dishes; the ingredients are done fairly well, the beef was adequately tender, but this fell short in the flavor category. I prefer mine with a more assertive sweet-savory flavor and this was really mild. Strangely, the rice was terrible...very hard.
The best part of the whole meal was the broth, which had such nice depth of flavor.
Just enough salt...this had that aaaah appeal. I guess I better return for other soups in the future.
I did return one more time for the Grilled Beef spicy Mango Salad ($9.95).
Again, nice try, but no cigar. The beef was tender, but on the mild side......the flavor of sesame oil was a bit too strong. The salad portion was nice, but again too much sesame flavor. I'd have enjoyed something with a stronger fish sauce flavor.
Like I said, the folks here are very, very, nice. I can see that they are trying for a more refined product, and while it shows in some of the prep, things just seem to miss the mark. I did notice that the two customers on the table in back of me were whining about how "greasy" the pho looked (meanwhile the Vietnamese on the table next to them just laughed - gringos wanting gringo pho)....I guess folks are really getting used to the MSG loaded, totally defatted, mediocre pho like they serve on Convoy. And while I admire the effort, the place just kind of falls short......
Lavang Restaurant 6755 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92121 Hours: Mon - Fri 10am - 9pm Saturday 10am - 10pm Closed Sunday
I received an email after my post on JK's Burgers and Hot Dogs asking me what I thought about the Pho at the shop in the same mall. Pho shop? Same mall? I did a short search and by golly, there was Pho UTC and Grill just a few doors down......Man, I'm losing my touch in my old age....... Anyway, I decided to stop by on the way back from a meeting a couple of weeks back.
Pho UTC & Grill:
The place was really quiet when I arrived.
Clean and fairly non-de-script, in a modern pho shop kind of way.The service was adequate, not surly, not friendly, also quite generic. Things move along quite quickly...at least it did for me as I was out of the place in 30 minutes.
Which should kind of be the theme as the broth of the Pho Dac Biet was very "San Diego generic"......in other words, not beefy, lacking in anise, or any other real flavor, other than a mild onion and being quite salty.
The broth was on the "thin" side, lacking any richness. The color was nice and the broth clear.
The noodles were horrendously overcooked and mushy.
Surprisingly, the beef tendon was quite good with a nice mildly chewy, yet not hard texture. The rare steak was way overcooked and hard by the time the bowl made it to my table. There were meatballs in this version, typical, "squeaky" texture. All the other proteins were fine.
As you can tell, this wouldn't be a first, or even fifth or sixth choice...... though if you're in the area and absolutely needed a bowl....well even then. As MrZ and other "pho punners" would probably say, "not aw-pho, but totaly pho-gettable".
Pho UTC & Grill 8915 Towne Centre Dr San Diego, CA 92122
Geez Louise, it wasn't even 11 and the place was packed...mostly older folks....a category I probably qualify for now.
I went with the Bun Tam Hoai Hue ($8.45), their special version of Bun Bo Hue, that's even more special than their Dac Biet ("special") which is also on the menu. I guess it's their special, that's more special than their special....or something like that.
As with previous visits; this has been quite consistent; not very spicy, not enough lemongrass, lack of any kind of dark savory tones. On the other hand, the proteins are done better than Mien Trung and the crab cake, a staple of Bun Rieu is a nice addition. This was a decent bowl of soup; though as Bun Bo Hue.....well, I'm not so certain, it's much too tame.
Hoai Hue Vietnamese Restaurant 4660 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92115
The Missus had to work and I wanted something a bit richer than pho, so I headed up to Pho Lucky for my favorite version of Banh Mi Bo Kho.
I'd had a bowl recently that was too salty, but this one hit the spot. Rich, beefy-anise tones, not watered down like most places. Tons of tendon.....it just hit the spot. The baguette looked kind of weird, but was nice and warm if a bit too crumbly....almost like something from K Sandwich.
I just noticed something....over the years, I've never mentioned the nice supporting role the pungency of the onions, the cilantro, and how a tiny squeeze of lime just lifts the flavor of the beef stew.
As an added bonus, a refugee from Tan Ky Mi Gia now works here. Folks who used to go there know who I'm referring to. It was nice seeing him.......all was right in the world at that moment!
Pho Lucky 9326 Mira Mesa Blvd. San Diego, CA 92126
Pho Cow Cali:
Well, the guy who has been cutting my hair for 12 years sure does get around; from Mission Valley to Serra Mesa to El Cajon to College to his uncles house (during a bad spell he was pretty much homeless) to Rolando, to Oceanside, and now (though I'm sure I've missed as couple of locations) to Mira Mesa. He is the one person with whom I can trust cutting my hair.....not a big deal I guess, but I have a very loyal streak in me. He is also a great guy....... A nice bonus is that he's now located in Mira Mesa, which gives me another reason to head up there.
Since I'd already had something from Pho Lucky earlier in the week, I decided to drop by Pho Cow Cali since it had been a while.
In terms of pho I think this way; Lucky for the broth, "Da Cow" for the beef......
And I wasn't disappointed. I'm not a big fan of "Tai" (rare steak) in San Diego. It's usually (well always) really low quality top round with no fat which ends up being quite tough even with the slightest sunk into the hot broth. The proteins on this day; though tripe and tendon seemed to be at premium, was fine as always. Now Ralph Waldo Emerson might have said "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" but he was referring to a "foolish consistency", of which PCC usually does not participate....at least in terms of meat.
The broth, on the other hand can sometimes be MSG overload....though that was not the case on this day. I will say, that it was a bit more defatted than I would have preferred. Maybe I should be like my fellow blogger Dennis and just automatically do the Nuoc Beo thing (BTW, we miss your posts Dennis - hope you are doing well).
The noodles were also a bit softer than I prefer, but overall, not a bad bowl....better than almost everything else in San Diego.
One thing I never noticed before....the, umm, well, is it the logo, which for some reason I found kind of strange since it looked more like a goat than a cow......and for some reason found strangely familiar....like "do I know you? Have we met before?" I can't put my finger on it right now......
Pho Cow Cali 9170 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
This used to be Quiznos, which I don't has fared quite well over the last couple of years. I believe we need some good independently owned west of the 805, so this was, at least for me, a welcomed sight. The interior has been redone, in what I call "modern pho".....that is, it is clean (should be because it's new, right?), simply done, sort of like Pho 46 or The Pho Shop. Of course, the standard issue televisions were present and accounted for as well.
I believe the owner also owns Pho Nam Cali in National City.
You know what I ordered, right? Looking at the location and then the menu I knew that this shop catered to more western sensibilities with regards to pho....in other words you won't find every combination of protein for pho on the menu. It's basically 8 variations, including Pho Filet. i just went with the Dac Biet. A small will set you back $7.50.
I didn't anticipate much in the way of garnishes and my expectations were met.
The broth looked disappointing, fairly cloudy, a bit too defatted. Almost no nose to speak of, very faint beef, no anise, savory-onionyness. The flavor was quite salty, but very flat after that. The portion looked quite small, which is fine since the broth was too salty to finish, even after touching it up with lime to cut the sodium.
The clumped noodles were quite good with a nice stretch.
As for the proteins....tripe MIA, the rare steak really tough and overcooked by the time the bowl hit the table....need to order this on the side. The tendon was good, soft and close to that buttery texture I like. The brisket was tasty and well prepared. Not much meat in the bowl though.
Not really a good value in my book. The guy running the front was very nice though. Quite friendly and efficient.
Since the place is close to home and work, it was easy enough to make multiple visits. Wasn't sure what to order on my second go around. I saw the Goi Cuon on my previous visit and it really didn't seem like something I'd enjoy here.
So I started with the Bò nướng hành ($6.50) - basically Grilled Beef Rolled around onions.
The fragrance was nice, the beef a bit on the tough side, but well flavored - sweet-salty, very straight forward teriyaki/bulgogi like. The onions were mild and overall this was a pretty good choice. The nuoc mam cham was on the mild side and the portion is gringo sized.
I also ordered the Bun with Pork, Shrimp, and Cha Gio ($9.95). Again, this seemed a bit on the pricey side.
Too much filler in the standard issue egg rolls, but the grilld pork was nicely flavored and not too tough. The shrimp seemed a bit overcooked. This looked like a pretty large bowl and I thought it was going to be a total carb bomb. However, half of the bottom was filled with lettuce. So in terms of being a salad.....well, this was pretty good. The bun was prepared perfectly as well. I did have to ask for more nuoc mam cham for this. A fairly expensive lunch, but not bad.
As I mentioned earlier, the guy working here was very nice and service was fine. So.......third time's the charm, right?
Plus, I did want to try the Fried Chicken Wings ($6.95), actually butter wings.
Not quite top notch, the fry job wasn't perfect and the skin wasn't as crisp as I would like. The seasoning left a bit to be desired, more pungent flavors, even, gasp, more salt! It was super hot, though there seemed to be a bit of "seepage", that is a lot of the meat had dark pigment, which made me wonder about how this was handled when freezing.
I finally took a good look at pages other than the first two on the menu and noticed Phnom Penh Noodle Soup ($7.95) under "Specialty Noodle Soups"....wow, one of my favorites. So I ordered it.
In retrospect, I sould have known better. I mean, how many Pho shops do you know that serve a good Hu Tieu Nam Vang? From the unblanched bean sprouts.....a good indication of the portion size is the bean sprouts in relation to the soup spoon.
The noodles were Banh Pho, not Hu Tieu. The meat, what what there was; was dry and flavorless chicken breast, standard issue meat balls, and shrimp, which actually wasn't bad. I actually had to bust out the chili paste to dip the pieces of chicken in.
The broth was terrible, bland and insipid. Bad move on my part. Lesson learned.
So there you go. New place, nice and clean.....really nice folks, but "pho not to offend". Honestly, there are worse places for pho in the area, but that's not really a reason to laud yet another mediocre bowl, right?
Pho Hut & Grill 5252 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92117 Hours: Open Daily 10am - 9pm
A few months back, I took a day off to meet some relatives who were visiting LA. I left quite early in the morning and hit Westminster at about 830 am. I decided to grab a bite to eat and it had been a while since I'd had pho in Little Saigon, so I decided to stop and get some. I checked out a couple of places and they were surprisingly busy, so I settled on Pho Quang Trang 2 which is in Asian Village Center right on Bolsa.
I hadn't been to this location of PQT, but I had been to the original location way back in the mid-2000's. From what I recall, they made a decent bowl of Pho Ga. I really wanted a obwl of Pho Filet Mignon, which is what I ordered. (small bowl - $6.45)
One of the main reasons being that I think I've gotten kind of used to the typical bowl of pho in San Diego, low in beef flavor, low in clove-scorched onion--anise tones, and high in salt/msg. I just wanted to get some bearings with regards to pho. First off, there was a bit less herbs than I was used too, but what there was sparkling fresh. The noodles were in the typical clump, but nicely done, still having a good amount of stretch to them. The broth looked darker than I expected, but was quite mild in the sodium department, at least compared to what I'd been having the last couple of months. Overall, a light beefiness, a bit too light in the fat department, but better than just about every place in San Diego. Not sure where it ranks within Little Saigon, wince I haven't had too many bowls over the last few years.
The only thing that I didn't enjoy was that the filet was still a bit too frozen, still stiff and solid, taking too long to get to the correct doneness and cooling off the broth too quickly.
The Missus has a style all Her own. She keeps me on my toes; I never know what Her latest obsession will be. Recently, She's become a bit of a coffee nerd, pour over coffee to be precise. One morning She sent me a text telling me She's ordered V60 "stuff".....my response was "what do you need a missile launcher for?". I came to find out that She wasn't planning on taking out any tanks, but rather, was ordering the gear she needed to make pour over coffee at home. Of course, what's coffee without beans, right? Which is how we started visiting places like Dark Horse and Portola, with me having stuff like Kyoto Drip Coffee. Anyway, Her favorite current source of beans and a nice cup of coffee is Bird Rock and on this morning She was thrilled.....they had something called Panama Geisha, supposedly the best Panama has to offer. It was ten bucks for V50 pour-over, yikes! Still, I believe it was important for Her to try it....once....since She's really enjoying Her coffee. The guy working here was really nice and told the Missus, "it's perfect......I want to make sure you enjoy every last drop!" Which She did....It's really smooth and fruity....a bit too smooth for me...it is quite lovely, but I like a bit of acid and bite in coffee. I am glad She got a chance to try it. She also bought some Kenyan to grind (by hand) at home....She's started to keep the labels of the various beans She buys to remember what She enjoys. My goodness, I'm married to a coffee nerd in training.
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters 5627 La Jolla Blvd San Diego, CA 92037
Then it's off to Pho Lucky:
So it's like in the 80's at 8 in the morning. What does the Missus want to have? Well, pho of course.... wha???
We actually ordered the same items as on this visit. Today the broth wasn't too salty and loaded with MSG, there was a nice clove-5 spice backbone to the broth. Lot's of tendon which the Missus gave to me.....along with all those perfectly cooked noodles....She stayed with the broth and meat. I'm still not a fan of the Missus dumping all those jalapenos into Her broth, but hey, it's Her soup, right?
I ordered the combination broken rice; most of which (except for the Bi, which the Missus inhaled) came home for a light lunch. I was too full after eating all those noodles.
Things were divided up as follows, pork chop and rice for me, shrimp stuffs for Her. She also had the "cha" which seemed like it had been sitting around for a while, it was too dry for my tastes, but the Missus enjoyed it. Such is how couples who have been together forever eat I guess.....
Pho Lucky 9326 Mira Mesa Blvd. San Diego, CA 92126
Gyokai Natto Don from Izakaya Sakura:
I was on my own for dinner. All this hot and sticky weather has me craving certain "comfort" food.....specifically natto. I hadn't been here in a while, and not for dinner in ages.
In fact, I hadn't been here since they cleaned up their menu....it's much more easy to read now...it made it so easy to find the Nankotsu Karaage - fried chicken cartilage. I love the crunch of well prepared chicken cartilage and this was fried perfectly.
The coating was nice, light, and crisp, though I think I'll need some togarashi next time as it needed a bit of umph.....
The combination of raw fish and ika (squid) combined with the sticky stringy natto was just what the doctor ordered. Soy sauce and wasabi just brought everything together for me. The agedashi tofu that comes with this wasn't cooked properly, the coating was gummy and didn't hold up.... otherwise, this was the perfect meal for today.
Izakaya Sakura 3904 Convoy St #121 San Diego, CA 92111
So. You see what we've been eating during this hot and sticky weather....what have you been eating?
It seems that I'm finally getting back into some semblance of a routine and I finally got back over to City Heights/Rolando for a look see. It's probably been about 2 months since I was last around here. Turning on University from 54th I quickly noticed that Pho Tay Do was gone, replaced by a very familiar name.
Dakao....wow. I'm not sure of the whole backstory of Dakao, but I do understand that it is one of those treasured "brands/names" that evokes reactions. The neighborhoof of Đa Kao in Vietnam is reknown for the Pho Ga - chicken noodle soup. In fact, the last time I had a decent bowl of Pho Ga was at DaKao in Little Saigon...it was quite good, I believe the place even had it's own poultry shop on Bolsa.
So, no brainer right?
The interior has been pared down and looks even more spartan that Tay Do.
Of course I got the Pho Da Dakao (small $5.95).
This is a basic bowl of white and dark meat chicken with some offal thrown in for good measure.
The white meat chicken was surprisngly tender if lacking in flavor.
The broth was much too light, falling short with regards to having a nice poultry flavor, and was super salty......and I like salt and MSG, but in appropriate amounts. This one made my feet swell after just a couple of sips.
If I recall, it's normal to get a version of a sweet chili sauce for your chicken with pho ga. What I had here was a remnant of Pho Tay Do, the garlic-ginger sauce.
The noodles were horrendous, really mushy, not very pleasant to eat at all.
The young lady serving me was very nice as was the young lady working the cash register. I was on the fence about coming back, but I try to do my due diligence with places like this so I decided to return.
This time around I paid a bit more attention to things and noticed something on the front cover of the menu....apparently, this location of Dakao is a franchise that looks like is from Texas....so nhbilly, know anything about these guys?
Since I thought the chicken in the Pho Ga was okay, why not go for the Com Ga Hai Nam.....Hainan Chicken Rice ($6.25). It's actually a pretty good looking dish.
The chicken was very moist, of course it was bony, it's a leg after all, so it was a bit ponderous eating it. The flavor was pretty straight forward and lacking any flavoring from aromatics. It was nicely poached though.
The rice was a tragedy, it was hard, dry, and worst of all, lacking in the true flavor of the rice that should be served with this dish.....there was a faint chicken flavor...very faint. Usually the rice is cooked with the poaching liquid of the chicken, along with some chicken fat, then garlic, ginger, shallots, and sometimes lemongrass is added for depth. This had none of the above.
That was pretty sad because I consider the rice to be just as important as the chicken in this dish.
So I don't know......I'll probably drop by again in maybe a couple of months? It's slim pickins with regards to pho ga in San Diego. But as you know, I'm not the kind of guy who is "just happy to have it"...... Hopefully, things will get better...there's potential, so we'll see. Will it remain one of those places with untapped potential as Pho Tay Do did?
Pho Dakao And Grill 5296 University Ave San Diego, CA 92105 Hours: Open Daily 8am - 9pm