Weather sure has been a roller coaster ride the last couple of weeks. Roasting hot one weekend, gloomy the next, and even a day when it sprinkled, in July! Mornings have been on the chilly side, then the sun will break through the marine layer, and we'll have bright sunshine during the afternoons. On a recent weekend morning it was cool enough for me to consider having some Pho. I'd recently received an email from "DavidL" who mentioned that Pho Thanh, right before 54th and University was under "new management". Now, I don't recall ever getting emails from DavidL, so of course I wondered if he was part of the "new management"? However, it was a very nice, email, short, sweet, and to the point, so I figured, why not.......
Other then the sign, the place look basically the same. And I was greeted immediately as I entered. I was given a menu, and water was immediately delivered to my table. I recalled that Pho Thanh had pretty decent service with regards to Pho restaurants, and so far it was going fairly well.
I had my sights set on Pho, but was waylaid on the way to my table by a gentleman digging into a decent looking bowl of Bun Mang Vit - Duck and Bamboo Shoot Noodle Soup ($7.45), and I decided to go with that.
The soup itself was fairly mild, not enough bamboo to add that nice earthiness to the soup I enjoy. It had a decent amount of saltiness. There was a mild duck flavor to the soup, and later I fished out two pieces of chopped duck wing from the broth, which explains that.
I did enjoy the noodles which had just the right amount of "pull" and weren't over-cooked or too "sticky".
The duck was decently prepared, perhaps a bit on the dry side. Here they try to give you more meat, and less bony parts.
i'd say the portion of duck was about right for Bun Mang Vit in San Diego. Under the duck was a pile of mostly thinly sliced cabbage, topped with fried shallots and peanuts. There wasn't enough Rau Ram (Vietnamese Coriander) for my tastes, but then again, I enjoy the flavor of Rau Ram.
The sauce here is the same as what I recalled Pho Thanh served, sweet-salty-garlic, with a more pronounced ginger flavor than other places.
In what was a really nice touch, the young lady working brought me another bowl of sauce halfway through my meal. Not quite in the league of Chinese Kitchen, but good enough for second place.... which is kinda where Pho Thanh was.
It may not be the best, but I did enjoy my meal, so I decided to return and check out the Pho. On my previous visit, I glanced at what other folks were eating, and determined that the rare steak here is the usual very lean, and very dry top round. I'm still waiting for Filet Mignon Pho to arrive in San Diego! So I ordered the large (since it is just 50 cents more than the small), Pho with well done brisket, flank, tendon, and tripe ($6):
The garnishes were on the skimpy side, though nowadays I'm a bit more spartan. I'm not looking to create a salad in my soup. I had just enough Ngo Gai (culantro) to add some pepperiness, and basil to add a touch of the almost anise flavor that I prefer. This was pretty straight forward, low oil, mildly beefy broth. In my old age, I've noticed that saltiness affects me a bit more, so I've come to depend on the trusty lime to add a bit of acid to temper the saltiness of the broth. If there was anything that stood out about this broth, it would be the distinct flavor of charred scallions and shallots.
As for the meats, the flank cuts were abundant, and pretty good, not to dry, nor were the fatty portions too tough. The brisket was in shreds and were hard to fish out, and a piece of tripe was a rare thing indeed. The tendon was too hard... though strangely, I'm ok with tendon served this way in my Bun Bo Hue, but expect more in my Pho.
I'm not so sure that there been much of a change from Pho Thanh, though that may not be a bad thing. The Pho was passable, and the Bun Mang Vit pretty good.
Pho Tay Do
5296 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92105
Open Daily 8am - 9pm