Today's posting of mmm-yoso!!! is written by Cathy. The guys are busy doing other things.
It's that time of year again; birthday week for The Mister and myself - a week apart; eight days of eating out. Our standard modus operandi is that He gets to choose meals for the first three days, we jointly choose meals the middle two days then I get to choose restaurants the last three days. Putting the posts together, I noticed patterns in our choices this year.
The turmeric coated stir fried fish lightly floured and coated in turmeric and hot pepper flakes, fried until the coating is crisp and topped with stir fried onion, Chinese celery and bell pepper. The numbing shows up at the end while the flavors of the fish and vegetables all come through at first. To accompany the plate of turmeric yumminess, I chose the oyster mushroom with shrimp noodles, which is tasty on its own but neutral enough to have as the 'side' (instead of rice). The bottom of the pot holds a buttery garlic surprise of chopped shrimp and some dried shrimp. It's rare to find any XLB in San Diego, so we chose these soup filled dumplings which were made to order and came out midway through the meal. None were broken and the skins were not chewy at all; quite tender yet not thin. The pork filling was very delicate, had a light crunch (water chestnut) and, of course, pork flavor.
Szechuan Chef 4344 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111 (858) 279-8881
When it was one of 'my' days to choose a celebratory meal, it was back to Bolsa. Immediately I knew what I wanted. The turmeric fish-Vietnamese style! (cha ca thang long)The fish is coated in flour, turmeric and egg then pan fried with dill and green onion. It's served sizzling on a cast iron platter. Wrapping the fish with some mint in the lettuce and dipping it in the fish sauce is just a perfect grouping of flavors. Not numbing, just tasty. We also ordered a Banh Xeo (which has turmeric in the pancake batter) and is filled with bean sprouts, shrimp and pork as well as some mung beans.
The Mister wanted the pork and shrimp Spring rolls, made to order. Fresh!
Bolsa 9225 Mira Mesa Blvd Ste 118 San Diego, CA 92126 (858)693-3663 Open daily 8:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
There were a couple more 'overlapping' meal choices this year. The Mister and I have similar-yet different- food cravings. Stay tuned!
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
I really wanted the Banh Mi Bo Kho from Pho Lucky unfortunately, they are still still closed for remodeling. At least the sign has changed and said "closed for painting". So I decided to see how the Banh Mi Bo Kho was at Pho Cow Cali. They sat me in the section by the restrooms in back....then proceeded to forget about me. Luckily, I managed to flag one of the army of servers down and place my order ($7.25).
So, beyond the rather odd serving dish.....I'm guessing there was a sale somewhere, what to say about this. In keeping with "Cow Cali" there's quite a bit of meat....it's flank and brisket and is quite tender. I really missed the tendon though. The broth was much too thin and this was really salty...as in the "MS heebie-geebies" salty. The bread was nice and warm though I'll stick with the pho here next time.
And of course, there's the typical pho shop service.
Pho Cow Cali 9170 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
This was pretty good; the broth was a bit richer than what I've had in the past. The intestine was prepared well; slightly "offal-y", but quite clean. The noodles nice and chewy with a bit of stretch and the blanched bean sprouts adding a bit of crunch to things.
A bit better than I recalled....and a nice choice on this morning.
777 Noodle House 4686 University Avenue San Diego, CA 92105
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