Man, they just opened in April! Cathy sent me a text about this and I went to check out their Facebook Page:
"Char House September 14 at 9:03pm To our valued guests, Char House is now CLOSED. Thank you for your support and we hope to continue serving you at our other location in Hillcrest: Pho Fifth Ave. 3807 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103."
I drove by yesterday.....
Geeez.....the Grand Opening sign is still up.....
7765 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111
Yum Cha Café Closes:
Cathy also mentioned this to me as well. Notice the trash bins in front of the door. The place caused a bit of buzz and opened to lines. But slowly got worse and worse and based on what I had during my last visit, they really did seem like they were circling the drain.
6933 Linda Vista Road San Diego, CA 92111
Since we've been on 99 Ranch Market watch here at mmm-yoso...... The sign has been up for a couple of weeks.
What really piqued my interest was when my good friend "YummyYummy" told me that this place had some relationship to Pho Ban Mai. I also noticed that the place opens at 9am, which was great. As I mentioned earlier, my schedule is now chocked full of meetings, often between 11 am and 1 pm. So having another early lunch option was great. One morning, having had meetings from 7am all the way to 930, I was starving. I usually get to work between 6 and 630 and hadn't eaten anything that morning. I had meeting scheduled out to the early afternoon, so I escaped for a quick meal at Duyen Mai.
They've done a nice job with the place....actually done a bit of renovation. The menu really did look like Ban Mai.
I was ravenous, but really didn't want any noodle soup....I had on a light colored shirt and really didn't want to embarrass myself with blots of soup stains on my shirt. I just don't wear them with as much style as Ed from Yuma does after a meal at Mien Trung!
I decided to try the Chicken Wings in Fish Sauce ($9).
These were nicely glazed, though not as crisp as I prefer. The sauce was adequate, slightly sweet, savory, with the distinct flavor of ginger. The actual meat was on the dry side. Adequate, but nothing special.
If there was one dish which almost never let me down at Pho Ban Mai, it was the Banh Xeo ($8.50).
This was pretty much like what I had on my last visit to Pho Ban Mai early last year. The batter was light, though without as much coconut flavor as I recall, and not too oily at all. It was pretty light in the filling department; especially with regards to pork. Still, it's all about proportion with this, so this was not bad. The nuoc mam cham tasted a little watered down; but the herbs and lettuce were sparkling fresh. I could only finish half and took the rest back to the office; where "R" just devoured it. Apparently, she's a fan of Banh Xeo.
The folks here are very nice and friendly. I had short chat with the woman who I believe is the owner. She informed me that the had sold Pho Ban Mai a while back and after a break decided to open another restaurant.
I returned that weekend. I was surprised to see the place doing decent business on a weekend morning. While the customers seemed split 50-50 on my previous week. This time all were Vietnamese.
I recalled that "JanFrederick" had mentioned the Bun Bo Hue in the comments on my original post on Pho Ban Mai. I'd really never had the chance to try it. So, I decided to finally order it ($8).
In terms of Pho Shop BBH, this was ok. Basically, doctored up pho broth. It had some sneaky spice and the noodles were firm and slippery, but it really lacked the deep lemongrass-funky flavor of a great bowl of BBH. Not a fan of the beef which crumbled into little pieces when I tried to pick it up with chopsticks.
The herbs and greens were on the sparse side, but very fresh. I might try this again one day, but not for a while.
Returning to work and more lunch time meetings, I returned to Duyen Mai. This time I wore appropriately dark clothes. It was also about time I try the Nem Nuong Cuon.
Yep, these were the same "Brodard light" rolls as I'd had at Ban Mai. On the good side, not too tightly wrapped, fresh, herbs, and scallion. On the other hand; I find the dipping sauce to be rather bland and am not fond of the texture of it and on this visit, the fried egg roll wrapper was on the burnt side and gave off a bitter flavor.
I also ordered the Pho Filet ($10)....but due to mental vapor lock, forgot to ask them to put the meat on the side.
So of course the beef was overdone by the time it got to my table. In spite of that; the beef was very tender and had no off flavors. The clump of noodles at the bottom of the bowl was decent, not overcooked. The broth was interesting; perhaps a bit too defatted and quite dark. The flavor was onion forward, almost no beefiness, light anise, but at least it didn't have too much MSG. In spite of the rather over-powering sweetness of the broth, I think I prefer Char House.
Like all previous meals; while light on the quantity, the sprouts and basil were very fresh. I probably should drop by and try their house pho one of these days.
One tip....right now, all the spring rolls are a buck a piece. I don't see it mentioned anywhere. Even though the typical order is 3; they'll ask you how many you want and just charge you $1 each!
Finally, this past weekend, one last weekend visit. Again, all the customers seemed to be VN.
I ordered the Goi Cuon Bi - the spring rolls with shredded pork and pork skin.
This was pretty good; it was wrapped a bit too tight, but the "bi" wasn't too dry and actually had rice powder on it. Loved the herbs; the mint really brought the flavor of this up. The nuoc mam cham on this visit was quite good and not watered down.
Not feeling like soup or anything heavy; I ordered the Goi Ngo Sen ($10.99); the Shrimp and Pork Lotus Stem Salad.
I haven't had this in ages. Apparently this version has jellyfish in it....I saw but a few thin strands. This was mostly julienned carrots and cucumbers, with a generous dose of bean sprouts. There were quite a bit of shrimp; which had been sliced in half lengthwise. Not much pork and a few lotus stem, which were buried away at the bottom of the salad. It was dressed a bit too light for me, so I dumped the remaining sauce from the Goi Cuon Bi on it which helped. At least I ate healthy, right? And those spring rolls were still just a buck a piece.....
I really like the folks here; they smile and are pretty friendly. If I bring folks here; I'd probably stick with the spring rolls and the banh xeo....I'm sure folks would enjoy them. The menu is rather vast; I recall enjoying a couple of other dishes at Ban Mai, so I'll probably try them here in the future. Hmmmm.....I need to return to Ban Mai as well......
You might as well check them out while they're still a dollar a piece. I have a feeling that when that Grand Opening sign comes down; the prices will go up!
Pho Duyen Mai 5375 Kearny Villa Rd San Diego, CA 92123 Open Daily 9am - 9pm
A couple more "Honey Doo" weekend breakfast revisits.
Tim Ky Noodle:
Actually, I hadn't planned on checking out Tim Ky. I'd been craving the Banh Mi Bo Kho from Pho Lucky and since 99 Ranch Market was out of the brand of Shaoxing I prefer, I headed up the 15 to Lucky Seafood. The plan was to get the bo kho from Lucky, then buy what I needed next door. Unfortunately, I was met with the "unlucky" sign to my right. Hmmm......hope they truly are just "remodeling". So I walked on over to Tim Ky and got the Won Ton and Dumpling Egg Noodle Soup. First off, the guy working here seems to have kind of burned out and has entered the "just give me your order phase".....which was fine....maybe he's not a morning person.
While the noodles were spot on perfect; everything else was back to how it was on a previous visit. Man, that soup was bland, the dumplings and won tons tough....if you're keeping score; there's now a total of five, down from six on previous visits.
Maybe this soup isn't a "morning kind of broth"?
At least I got my Shaoxing....which kept this from being a totally "un-Lucky" morning.
Tim Ky Noodle 9330 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
I was driving around on errands rather late this past long weekend. I was kind of hungry and noticed that Que Huong was open. Man, it had been over a year since I last visited. I walked toward the door and Jay came up and opened it for me! I guess the place opens at 10am on weekends. I didn't know that!
The other thing I didn't know was that they served a whole bunch of different noodle soups these days.
I ordered the Canh Bun. Jay told me they were out of fried tofu and I told him to not include the pork blood. I was surprised at what I got for $6.95.
Man, look at all that ong choi....which was fresh and crisp. Qutie a bit of the pork/crab floating around as well. Maybe they gave me a lot more since they didn't have any fried tofu? The noodles were nicely done, firm and slippery. What surprised me the most was the broth.....it wasn't overly MSG heavy, with a pleasant mild flavor. I do think it could have been a bit richer but the mam tom (fermented shrimp paste) really went well with this; adding a nice complex savory flavor to the broth.
I mentioned the quiet unsalty flavor of the broth to Jay who told me that they had really cut back on the MSG and salt these days......which makes it quite the opposite from how things have trended here in San Diego over the last few years. Jay told me that he has become a bit sensitive to MSG which lead to this change....interesting.
It's been way to long between visits. Maybe I need to drop by and try the Bun Mam here. Though I might pass on the pho..... Jay also told me that he's adding a whole range of "salad type" dishes and revamping the menu a bit. More reason to return I guess.
Que Huong Restaurant 4134 University Ave San Diego, CA 92105
While completing my weekend "honey doo" lists a while back; I decided to return to Pho Hoa. Man, it's been like three years since I last visited this City Heights institution. And while I think this place has slipped over the years; the parking lot was almost filled when I arrived at 0845 on a weekend morning. So it's obviously one of the top choices in the area on a weekend morning.
Pho Hoa is totally old school; from the paying at the register, to the banquet chairs and sticky tables, to the menu being tossed at you and the Server hovering over you like it's expected that you've been here before and already know what to order....the menu is merely a vehicle that symbolizes all that Pho Hoa has. And what Pho had on this day was the same item I had last time #4.....which is now $7.40. All my experiences with the "tai" here have not been pleasant; there's a tendency for the meat to have a metallic taste to it. So I stick with the flank, brisket, tendon, and tripe.
This time around, the broth was much more acceptable, slightly beefy, not too heavy on the MSG, perhaps defatted a bit too much for my taste. The tendon was also decent as was the tripe. For some reason the flank and brisket fell short on this visit, the flank too tough and dry and the brisket lacking flavor.
There's one thing that has never fallen short here...it's the basil, cilantro (Ngo Gai), and sprouts.....always a generous portion, always sparkling fresh. I didn't need the lime today to balance out the broth, a good thing.
The noodles were also perfect.
These days, I sometimes fall into the trap of waxing nostalgically about the borderline indifferent, perfunctory, and hovering service.......I've noticed that things have changed at some of these places like Pho Hoa Huong. Even here, the guy smiled when he delivered my bowl of pho. The guy running the cash register even told me "thank you", when giving me my change. Changing times, I guess. I'm not sure when I'll be back to Pho Hoa, but at least this time around I got a decent bowl.
Pho Hoa Restaurant 4717 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92115
Man, Cathy posted on Van Hoa last year. I hadn't been in the Vien Dong strip mall in a while, so I was surprised to see Van Hoa is now Banh Cuon Ha Long:
My good friend "YummyYummy" told me it's owned by the same folks as Song Huong....and honestly, I'm not a big fan of their Banh Cuon....so it might take me a while to check them out.
4016 54th Street San Diego, CA
Pho Duyen Mai:
I surprised to see Pho Nhu Y was gone when I drove by the other day. I kind of stopped going when they ceased to serve Bun Mam there. In it's place was this shop.
Again "YummyYummy" came through....apparently this place has ties to Pho Ban Mai, so I'll be checking them out soon.
5375 Kearny Villa Rd San Diego, CA 92123
Trinitea on Balboa:
Driving into the parking lot of Tropical Star, I noticed something a bit strange. They'd tried to open a kind of coffee shop a while back....I guess that didn't do too well. It's now the latest location of Trinitea.
It just seems weird to have the gigantic "Tropical" sign looming above the shop....which basically doesn't have a sign. I'm sure they'll fix that soon.
6167 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111
What we've been eating to beat the heat:
We finally got some decent ripe Roma tomatoes recently, so we've been enjoying Salmorejo. Man, I'd forgotten how good this is.
I was surprised that Calvin, who's missus is from Westminster, like Bun Mam, had never heard of Bun Mang Vit. They had to ask an aunt who knew all of these Vietnamese dishes. So a couple of months back, I was craving Bun Mang Vit again.
It seems that everytime I visit, something has changed at Tu Thanh. Still, it the Bun Mang Vit I'm after.
And while this was good; it wasn't quite as good as what I've had in the past. The duck was haphazardly cut, some slices too thick, others with slivers of bone. The flavor was still the same though. The broth was a bit lighter in flavor and seemed to have a bit more msg.....I still enjoy the rehydrated bamboo shoots.
When it comes down to it; perhaps it's the sauce that makes everything tick; the garlic-ginger-sweet-salty tones just brings things together.
Which is what it did for Calvin, who had never had Bun Mang Vit before.
The menu seems to be ever expanding here now.
Perhaps someday I'll try something different. But not on this day.
Tu Thanh 4804 University Ave. #A San Diego, CA 92105 Hours: Thurs - Tues 9am - 9pm Wednesday 9am - 5pm
Manila Fast Food and Desserts:
So, "FOY" (Friend of Yoso) and periodic commenter "SomTommy" sent me and email after my post on Mama Cinia asking me which Chicken Adobo I prefer; Manila Fast Food versus the rather new Mama Cinia. Hmmmm.....good question. Chicken Adbobo isn't usually the first thing I choose. So I decided to head on back to Manila Fast Food. I hadn't been there in a while. I got the combination with Chicken Adobo and, well, sisig of course.
As you can see, the portion size, typical of these "turo-turo" places was quite generous. That chicken adobo, other than being salty was pretty bland....no nice vinegar, nor black pepper flavors.
The sisig was, unlike previous visits, pretty weak. Too little vinegar, too little spice for my taste. Also, much too waxy in texture.
Kind of a bummer since the sisig, while not traditional, and the kaldereta kambing (which I haven't seen in a while here) were the dishes I enjoyed the most. I actually prefer the sisig at Mama Cinia to this.
Manila Fast Food and Desserts 8979 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
A few months back I noticed that Corner Sandwich & Café was gone and being replaced by Bale. I then plumb forgot about it, until I recently passed the shopping center again and took a glance. It appears the place opens rather early so I dropped by for a Banh Mi.
The place looks somewhat cleaned-up, in a somewhat typical VN restaurant kind of way. Instead of hordes of men having coffees and smoking cigarettes in the place, there's now what looks like two outside tables and things seem a bit more quiet. Only 8-9 guys, wonder where the Vietnamese Coffee/Beer/Cards social club moved on to?
I simply ordered a Banh Mi Dac Biet to go ($4.50). It felt kind of hefty and it was......
I've been mostly going to those places that pretty much make their own banh mi these days, so the bread seemed a bit of a shock. It was fairly hard, mostly crust, and the bread hadn't held up well. At least it wasn't as mealy as I recalled the bread being at their other location in Mira Mesa. Man, those were some thick slices of meat! There was also a huge smear of pate on this; which pretty much dominated the entire sandwich. Also, the pickled carrots and daikon here are thicker cut, which I don't mind at all. This seemed really rustic and was quite filling.
A few weeks later, I was in the area at around 830am. I was a bit hungry, but instead of heading to one of my usual suspects, I drove a bit further up Mira Mesa Boulevard and ordered a Banh Mi Op La from Bale. Fewer guys hanging out in the front on this morning; probably because it was a Sunday.
This must be the most pickled vegetables I'd ever had in a banh mi! Good lord......also loved the jalapeno which was nice and spicy. The eggs were a bit past the point of what I prefer in my easy over egg banh mi, but it was still good. The sandwich was warm, almost hot to the touch when I was given it, so I thought the best move would be to have it here. The bread was nice; crusty/flakey exterior, the interior hadn't been turned to mush; it wasn't overly toasted, yet so nice and warm. This is comfort food.
Once the gentleman working the front saw that I was going to have my sandwich here; he brought me a glass of ice water; nice touch. The sandwiches here are a bit more filling than what I'm used to, but it's good to have another option in the area. There's a number of various items; like Banh Beo and various noodle dishes on the menu, so maybe I'll try one of those next time....or maybe I should just have the Banh Mi Op La.
Bale Sandwich & Deli 9005 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
Over my last couple of visits I'd noticed a softer, kinder Pho Hoa, and on this visit they were still quite nice, I was greeted with a smile, and actually handed a menu....this place used to infamous for basically flinging a menu onto the table....but then again, I used to call them the "Fastest Pho in the West".
I ordered the Banh Mi Bo Kho; which actually took a while. This gave me some time to look around and make some observations. No much"older" gentlemen with "wives" at least 20 years or more younger this time around, though the guy on the table next to me managed to work through three Heineken. This was 8am mind you! I also noticed that a fair amount of customers didn't seem to bother to tip? Or maybe they're just leaving the tip with the cashier....I hope so.
So what to say about this? The broth was super hot, but was really fatty and had a bit of a greasy tongue feel. It was decently beefy, but missing in the mild tanginess and slightly pepper/pungent tones I enjoy. The meat was a bit too lean for my taste and there didn't seem to have much tendon; perhaps I'd been gringoed? The carrots were underdone. I liked the lemon, but didn't know what to do with the bean sprouts and all that basil?
The banh mi was nicely heated and crusty; the yeastiness of the bread; standard issue, did well.
And then there was the piece of bone that I nearly cracked my teeth on......no damage done; but a trip to the dentist would have really been a bummer.
I think I'll stick with the fastest pho in the west the next time I visit.
Pho Hoa-Huong Restaurant 6921 Linda Vista Rd San Diego, CA 92111
Tim Ky Noodle:
So, I've been working a few hours on most weekends to keep up with work. I'd usually go in at around 6am and get out in time to do some shopping and run other errands. I'm glad some of these places open rather early; though not many of them in Kearny or Clairemont Mesa do. I needed to pick something up at Lucky Seafood, it was nearly 10am on Sunday, so why not drop by Tim Ky since it had been a while?
Not much going on this morning, but they had 4 guys working in the dining room, so I guess they do get busy. It was a bit too warm to have the won ton egg noodle soup, so I went with the Beef Sate Egg Noodle Soup...dry.
This was much better than the version I'd had here on previous visits. Especially surprising was how tender the beef was and that the sate had hit a decent balance between savory and mildly spicy. The egg noodles were nicely done and all those wonderful savory flavors just went so well together.
The soup was a bit too heavy on the MSG end for me; but spooned onto the noodles it did ok.
I decided to drop by and grab a bite. The shop is fairly small, with a few tables off to one side and stacks of pastry receptacles lining the path to the counter.
Even though most of the containers were empty, that these were for grabbing take-out items like spring rolls, croissants, and various salad dishes. There was also a decent selection of VN coffee, boba, and smoothies as well. There was a stack of banh mi and baguettes in a basket to the side.
I gotta say, the folks working here were really friendly, though the turnaround for orders were a bit slow. The great thing I found out was that they bake their own bread here! Nice! Competition for Cali Baguette Express?
I decided to try the Dac Biet, the "special".
Priced a bit more expensive than other Banh Mi shops at $4.49, I was immediately aware that the sandwich was a bit more "hefty". Returning to the office, I noticed that there was a bit more meat in this. First things first, the bread here is more crusty than flakey and is on the chewy side. It also doesn't keep very long, getting almost rubbery after a short time....I'd find out that for myself when I bought a baguette during another visit. Paris Bakery currently makes my favorite bread for Banh Mi and even to have with cheese in San Diego.
And while I've always said that it's about proportion rather than fillings when it comes to Banh Mi, I really liked how this was put together; the amount of pate was perfect and the meats' especially the cha lua, which can be rather rubbery when sliced too thick was excellent. I thought the carrots and daikon weren't pickled enough to cut the richness of the meat and pate, though the jalapeno was nice and sneakily spicy. Typical stringy cilantro.
Pretty good sandwich overall, so a couple of days later I decided to return. Calvin was interested and decided to join me.
I love eggs in my Banh Mi and the menu said they make Banh Mi Op La ($3.49), typically fried eggs, but here they told me it was easy over. And when I opened the sandwich, you could tell by the mess it was!
Egg yolk oozed all over my paperwork, but that's ok. Initially, I thought they hadn't sliced the sandwich, but then I noticed it had been sliced 2/3 way through. I realize a lot of people are freaked out over runny egg yolk, but this was pretty good, if a bit messy. As a bonus, there was a nice thin slice of ham and a good smear of pate as well. As I ate this rather quickly, the bread held up pretty well.
Calvin ordered the Xiu Mai, the meatball, which, after many bad versions, I'm leery of, but he told it was better than average.
Having to work on a recent Sunday and wondering if three time's a charm , I decided to head over and get the Banh Mi Cha Lua ($3.99).
Nicely set-up sandwich, though the bread was a bit chewy and perhaps because it was Sunday seemed to be a bit on the stale side. Pickles were still a bit too mild for me, but like how thin they slice the cha lua and the amount of pate on the sandwich. The cilantro (I know folks tell me I'm kind of weird about that) had more leaves than stems this time around.
Overall, my three visits were satisfying. It's good to have another decent banh mi option in the area that makes their own bread. While I prefer the bread at Cali Express, I prefer the egg banh mi here. Also to note; if you order egg on a banh mi as an extra, it'll be fried well done, but you can tell them you want the egg easy over they'll do it for you. Be forewarned, it'll be quite messy. I think I'll check out the beef jerky papaya salad and perhaps some of the other dishes in the near future.
Banh Mi Bakery & Cafe 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Suite H1 San Diego, CA 92123