mmm-yoso!!! is a blog about food that's been around for a very long time. Kirk is usually here writing, but he's on vacation right now. Ed(from Yuma) is sometimes here, but he is planning his vacation as this is being written. Cathy is here and now.
Van Hoa has been in this corner location of the strip mall at the North West corner of University at 54th since at least 2007, when Kirk wrote a two-part post about it. I followed up about seven years later with my own post about this regular stop before shopping at the Vien Dong Supermarket (to the right in the photo below).You have most likely seen the Van Hoa label on spring rolls and desserts sold at 99Ranch Market, Thuan Phat and World Foods.Ordering at the restaurant means the rolls are even fresher than the ones delivered to those stores daily. I must say the rice paper wrap is never 'rubbery', because the rolls are just made. There is only one choice of flavors- shrimp with pork. ($3.25). The fresh vegetable fillings(lettuce, mint, cucumber, carrot, daikon) are refreshing and what I crave. The peanut butter based dipping sauce lends a good umami to it all. The egg rolls here are also above average ($5.95). Mostly meat with mushroom filling, the frying is proper and never too greasy.Now that the warmer weather is coming (and going), sometimes bun (it's pronounced 'boon') is an order. Chilled vermicelli on one side of the bowl, salad (lettuce, mint, cucumber, sprouts) on the other half and, in this case, topping of Tau Hu Ky (shrimp wrapped with tofu skin) and the usual pickled radish/cucumber and peanuts ($6.50) makes an exceptional meal.Then again, my most favorite version of Banh Xeo ($6.50) is at Van Hoa, so as we are being seated I place that order (it takes a while to make the rice flour/turmeric pancake) The crunchy light pancake is delightful, the shrimp and pork are plentiful along with the onion/bean sprout/mung bean filling. Eating bits of this wrapped in lettuce and mint is also refreshing.
Thanks for reading. I hope your week is going well.
Van Hoa 4016 54th San Diego, Ca 92105 (619)582-2642 Open Mon-Sat 6-8, Sun 7-7
I never knew you could get the intestine "fried first" to give a bit more texture. I was told on this visit. At $6.77, this is priced right. Good swiney, earthy intestine, the pickled vegetable is typical, but this is a good value and I have no complaints.
Nice folks....I still get a kick that they call me "sir"......
777 Noodle House 4686 University Avenue San Diego, CA 92105
Come Tuesday it was on the chilly side...so it was over to Yakyudori for some Shio Ramen. Hard to believe the place was empty when I arrived.
Went for the shio ramen. It was interesting; I still think they changed the salt they use for this a while back...it just doesn't have the same flavor. The broth was also a lot darker than I recalled. The chashu was better than what I've had before. At least it wasn't ice cold. The boiled egg was lovely....not the best, but decent. The noodles prepped well.
The service was a lot less surly than what I've recently experienced. As I left, the place was getting crowded.
Yakyudori Ramen and Yakitori 4898 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
They've done a bit of renovation since the last time I was here.
I really love the texture of the crisp and light kakiage. And though the broth and udon is nothing special; it's the sum of the parts that works for me. That onigiri still seems like overkill to me....but I'm not complaining.
Plus, it's still $8.95.
Izakaya Sakura 3904 Convoy St #121 San Diego, CA 92111
By Thursday, it was in the 80's. It was time to treat myself to a nice Hwe Dup Bop.
And Sam know just how I like it. Easy on the rice, a good amount of cho-jang...crisp, fresh, a little spicy. Just what I needed to refresh.
Sushi Yaro 7905 Engineer Road San Diego, CA 92111
The weekend came and it was a bit cooler again....so I guess it was back to the beginning.
If you're going to have one item here, it should be the fish sauce wings. Since I first tried them in 2008, it's been a beloved item. In my article in the Reader, I noted how Jay told me he was going through as much as a thousand pounds of wings in a month.
It's still a wonderful, sweet, salty, and sticky.......
The Jackfruit Salad is another standby.
Over the years, I've noticed that they've somewhat refined their dishes a bit. In this salad, I noticed that the whole, hard peppercorns were gone and on this visit the nuoc mam cham was more savory, heavier on the fish sauce than sweet and watered done, which was a welcomed change. Nice amount of veggies, the somewhat citrusy-pungent-cilantro tones of rau ram, shrimp, and pork.
This made for a very satisfying meal.
It's good to know that the food here was just as good when Jay wasn't on the premises. It's also good to see Que Huong last when so many haven't.
Que Huong Restaurant 4134 University Ave San Diego, CA 92105
Now that things are settling down I can make more trips up to City Heights. And revisit Tan Ky Mi Gia.
Man, this place is looking a bit run down.
Still, the place has outlasted the pool hall next door.
Still, the prices are still good....$5.75 for basic egg noodle soup. However, on this visit I saw Bot Chien posted on the wall. It was breakfast time, so there was no doubt I'd be ordering it.
While not in the class of Kang Lac, this was not bad. The crisp parts were nice, though there were some kind of gummy parts to it. It was also pretty big, I ended up taking a good part of it home...the Missus, who basically never saw an egg dish She didn't like enjoyed it. Loved the dipping sauce as well. Overall decent.
A week later I returned in the morning and decided to try the Won Ton and Dumpling Egg Noodle Soup ($5.75).
The broth is not quite where it used to be.....a bit more salty, less body, cloudy. The egg noodles were perfect. I didn't care for the hard as rock dumplings and won tons. It's not like I'm expecting amazing for under six bucks. But this just didn't do it for me.
So will I be back......yes, I've got see what the state of the duck egg noodle soup is like. Plus, it's hard to complain about meals like these.......and heck, there one Tan Ky Mi Gia left.
Tan Ky Mi Gia 5237 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92115
Here's a couple of places I haven't been to in a while.
Pho Ban Mai:
A couple of weeks ago, when it was super hot, Lily and "YZ" wanted to grab some lunch. Everything just seemed a bit "too much" for the heat and this being a Monday, places like Sab E Lee were closed. We ended up going to Pho Ban Mai, which I seem to visit about once a year. I ended up doing the ordering and we started with the Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings:
While the seasoning wasn't bad; I thought these were greasy, the bones in several were broken and the meat tasted a bit off like it had been thawed and then refrozen. Not good eats.
I also went with what I call the "Brodard South" dishes; the Nem Nuong Cuon and the Chao Tom Cuon. Like I mentioned before, these were right out of the Brodard playbook.
As before the Nem Nuong, the pork "sausage", was much better, more flavor, nicely grilled, and the addition of a touch of herbs along with the scallion complements the flavor of the meat. The Chao Tom, is a bit too rubbery and "squeaky" for me and is quite bland....which comes to the sauce....I keep on meaning to just get nuoc mam cham, the sauce here is not very good, very bland, lacking in flavor.
I've always enjoyed the banh xeo here; I think it is crisp and light, and I appreciate the ratio of fillings to the crisp "crepe". It's all about proportion to me when it comes to banh xeo.
Lily and "YZ" had never had banh xeo before, so I thought this would be a nice introduction. Man, Lily went after this like there was no tomorrow.....apparently, she loves bean sprouts, and the combination of the light crunch of the crepe with the crisp lettuce and herbs, dipped into nuoc mam cham was just what the doctor ordered for a hot day. This was a nice specimen, perhaps as good as what I had here in 2011.
Overall a decent meal; though there's one area that seemed lacking. When Pho Ban Mai first opened, the folks seemed friendly and attentive, during my last visit, the guys seemed more interested in socializing. This time around, they seem to want nothing to do with customers. In other words, it's getting almost borderline rude here. Not a good trend. I hope the next time I get my banh xeo fix, the pattern will be reversed.
Pho Ban Mai 8991 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
As far the wings go, they've never been quite the same, but were still good, and usually held up well. The Missus had always enjoyed the salt and pepper shrimp without shell here as well. Which is what I ordered.
Man, what is going on here? The chicken, while crisp, had basically no flavor.....I had to roll it in the garlic-scallion mixture to get any flavor at all.
It had also been fried to death......dry as a mouthful of sand. Kind of sad. Looks like I'll have to start making the rounds searching for some good S&P wings.
To make things worse, the shrimp were even more pathetic.
Very bland, under fried and gummy batter....this was pretty bad.
It's quite sad when an "old standby" doesn't deliver....
New Mandarin Canton Chinese Restaurant 543 Telegraph Canyon Road Chula Vista, CA 91910
"What's this thing with you having pho for breakfast every Saturday?" Asked the Missus. My reply; "well, some of these errands I have to run for you mean a bit of a drive and pho is always easy, plus these places open rather early, 8 or 9 am, and aren't crowded at that time."
Which is how I came to have two bowls at almost opposite ends of the map the last two Saturdays.
Pho Hung Cali:
I'd heard some good things about this place from folks who live in the South Bay. "Buddha" who often comments also mentioned the place to me in an email. So since I was in the area, I thought why not?
the place was very easy to find; basically katty-corner from Aqui es Texcoco. Strange, I'd never even noticed the place before.
The interior is much larger than it looks from the outside....though a lot of the space is empty.
The service is typical pho shop...perhaps a bit more friendly, but mostly all business.
I went with the #18 - Rare Steak, Flank, Brisket, Tendon, and Tripe ($5.95).
I think I've had too many bowls of pho...I recognized the pattern on the bowl; it's the same as the bowls at Pho Cow Cali and Pho Hiep and Grill. Sheesh. The broth though, being on the "sweeter" side reminded me of Pho Fifth Avenue. It wasn't quite as beefy, though it had some anise tones. A decent broth, a bit too light, but not overly salty. It was also a bit on the cloudy side.
I appreciate the generous amount of nicely prepared tripe; though the rare steak was totally cooked by the time the bowl reached me and rigor mortis had set in. The rest of the meats were meh......tasteless, much of it falling apart, the tendon tougher than I prefer.
The noodles were overdone and mushy.
Overall, not a bad bowl, possibly the best I've had in the area. If I were in the area, I'd stop by again. The broth wasn't bad, the prices decent, and one other thing....the hot tea was free....I know, it's usually only a buck.....but for some reason I appreciated an ok pot of tea gratis.
Pho Hung Cali 1060 Broadway Chula Vista Chula Vista, CA 91911 Hours: Mon - Sun 8am - 9pm
Pho Saigon and Grill:
This place is located right across from 24 Hour Fitness on Carmel Mountain Road. The place I needed to be at wasn't open until 10 am so I decided to grab some breakfast here.
The folks here were really nice.
I got the Pho Dac Biet (small - $6.95), which arrived super piping hot. The presentation reminded me of Pho Paradise.
The herbs and sprouts portion was on the small side.
The broth was highly defatted, but had a nice dark hue. It didn't quite deliver on it's color being very light in flavor and quite salty.
The tendon, as you can tell was good, as was the brisket, which had kept a nice beefy goodness. The flank was too tough, the rare steak cut too thick, and the tripe MIA.
The noodles were dead on perfect. Not sure why all places can't do it this way?
Overall a nice experience with regards to the staff. The pho was decent, but nothing worth going out of my way for.
Pho Saigon & Grill 9975 Carmel Mountain Rd San Diego, CA 92129 Hours Mon - Sun 9am - 9pm
Of course, the underlying question is; which of these two bowls did I enjoy more? I've got to say Pho Hung Cali, based on the broth, which was more complex and had more flavor.
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