Hello. I thought it would be a good time to post a few more bowls of Pho I've tried at places. Some date back as far as a year from now and while my memory is fairly good (when it comes to meals I've had) I may not be able to describe some of them in great detail. May be a good thing though to try to avoid a marathon novel like my first. But I've been finding many shops fairly inconsistent with their beef broth so it's hard to say your experience will be the same as mine anyway. Either way like most anything, everyone has their personal preferences and Pho is no exception. Over time mine evolved to be a deeper robust broth (a bit hard to find here) with strong aromatics and a drizzle of that lovely nuoc beo once in a while (that tends to freak some of my friends out who haven't seen it before).
So listing them in somewhat of a reverse chronological order.. I visited Pho Hoa Linda Vista just last week. First time visiting and I don't think they are related to the Pho Hoa off El Cajon Blvd (and the few similarly named that I see in L.A.). I tried the 'house special' Dac Biet (regular portion, $5.65). Full menu here.
The aromatics was average to low but the flavor of the broth was pretty nice at least for my taste. A medium heartiness with a light beading of oils on the surface.
Veggies were pretty standard but without ngo gai saw leaf herb. The amount and freshness was fair. I thought the meats were ok where the rare steak and tendon wasn't the most tender but decent. The flank and brisket was fine.
Had a half order of the Cha Gio ($2.60). These were fried wrapped in the more authentic rice paper. It's a bit chewier and sweeter than the Chinese egg roll skinned counterpart (which I like just as much). Here the minced shrimp in the filling came through and I enjoyed this a lot.
The nuoc mam cham dipping fish sauce wasn't watered down and pretty potent, spicy too! As for the Pho, although I may have had better quality/quantity meat toppings there were a whole lot of noodles and I did enjoy the broth so this place is a-ok in my book.
I can see the original $4.95 prices underneath the tape but $5.35 for most of them I feel is still a pretty good deal if you don't mind the rougher cut meats.
Pho Hoa Linda Vista, 6921 Linda Vista Rd, San Diego, CA 92111
Pho Hiep & Grill is at the North end of the same complex of PHLV that encompasses Thuan Phat Supermarket. Here my memory isn't as sharp but I do remember enjoying the Pho ($5.50) at least as much as Pho Hoa Linda Vista if not more so. PH&G full menu here.
The broth may have been a tad lighter but I thought the meats were better and..
Total bonus points for having the saw leaf herb in the veggie platter. :)
The cha gio (half order) was with the Chinese egg roll skin but piping hot and much larger than typical. I like how there were at least one lettuce leaf per egg roll (like I don't need to tear any in half which can get annoying), but funny I don't see mint leaves provided in the photo.. I remember really enjoying these though.
When in the area Pho Hiep & Grill would be a total no brainer choice for me when in the mood for Pho. Would happily return any time. :)
Pho Hiep & Grill, 6947 Linda Vista Rd, San Diego, CA 92111
A trip now to El Cajon Blvd, which maybe can be renamed to Pho Blvd? At least in certain stretches. Pho Hoa is still one of my favorites (a nice broth and great meats) but they don't serve anything else there and I've come to enjoy having my bowl with a few cha gio in the last couple of years.
Anyhow here at the ever famously named Pho King that people so love to poke fun at, I had the Pho King: Tai, Chin, Bo Vien ($5.45).
This was actually my first experience of a broth with a more pronounced garlic flavor. While I'm by no means an expert of Pho, the garlicky flavor felt a bit odd to me.
The nuoc beo was the same where I can visually see the minced garlic.
While I must say the bowl was far from bad, the flavor profile (haha, I said flavor profile..) wasn't exactly what would hit that spot for me when craving Pho. Strictly a personal preference thing maybe. And this place seemed popular, crawling with people.
I had more than a few cha gio to take home with since they didn't do half orders. But the generous amount of lettuce and mint leaves were quite impressive. Also as you can see in the little spice carousel of sorts, this place is condiments heaven. :)
Pho King, 4658 El Cajon Boulevard San Diego, CA 92115
Maxim's Seafood Restaurant is a block or so West (not to be mistaken with the related but different Maxim's Palace much further West). This is a Chinese/Vietnamese place, full menu here.
Too bad the Pho wasn't to my liking either cause I really dug the atmosphere.
The broth seemed to have a hybrid Chinese noodle soup and Pho flavor. Again I can't maybe say bad but if one was expecting that Pho Bo flavor this wouldn't be it.
Their standard cha gio was vegetarian so I had the regular egg roll which had shrimp and pork. There were enough large chunks of shrimp in it that I'd consider it a seafood egg roll.
As for the Pho, I somehow managed by experimenting with different condiments.
But I definitely won't be judging this place (or any listed on this post for that matter) strictly with the Pho. I look forward in coming back to try some Chinese seafood dishes and a more thorough post by Kirk of mmm-yoso on Maxim's SFR can be found here.
Maxim's Seafood Restaurant, 4616 El Cajon Blvd - Ste 1, San Diego, CA
Pho Sao Bien is in Pacific Beach. A super cute place along busy Garnet. Easy to pass by so look out for these signs.
I'd say this place is on par with Pho Time, although in fairness I only visited each once.
The soup was very aromatic when arrived which was great. But tasting, the broth didn't seem as potent to the extent of how it stimulated my olfactory senses. Was on the lighter side of medium maybe.
Portion is pretty big. The cha gio was wrapped in the 'correct' rice paper if you prefer this. The nuoc mam cham wasn't watered down with a nice sweet/fishy/spicy potency. :)
A piping hot Vietnamese egg roll wrapped in leafy lettuce with some mint leaves.. Oh how does one go wrong?! :)
While the drizzling rain didn't hurt things any this day, I'd be happy to visit PSB again when in PB.
Pho Sao Bien, 1958 Garnet Avenue, San Diego, CA 92109
Next a hop skip to the Convoy area.. Pho Convoy seems to be the most extremely inconsistent spot for Pho judging by experiences that I've read on other blogs. Full menu here.
Unfortunately on my visit it must have been one the off days. The broth tasted extremely watered down. Like shockingly bland.(!) It wasn't very hot either.
Veggies were sparse in the basil department and the ngo gai was missing (which seems pretty typical in majority of pho shops). Again, not just saying to be nice but the com tam rice dishes others were having seemed quite delicious and popular. The place was pretty packed when I visited so I'm guessing they must be doing something right.
Pho Convoy Restaurant, 4647 Convoy St # 101B San Diego, CA 92111
The last is a revisit to Pho Cali. This is my second while I forgot to bring my camera during my third visit.
This Pho shop, possibly the closest to me maybe next to Pho Fifth Avenue in Hillcrest is located in the Hooters mall in Mission Valley. Since it's located so conveniently for me I was hoping maybe the Pho would have grown to have a little more umph but alas not much had changed. Quite the lighter broth here rivaling maybe Pho La Jolla.
Will be visiting only in a pinch for Pho but their other com tam rice dishes many were having looked quite delicious and I may be back for that when I'm shopping at DSW for their latest shipment of men's sneakers, ha.
Pho Cali, 1400 Camino De La Reina, Ste 105, San Diego, CA 92184
And that is all folks. Well I had at least three more but they weren't very good and not much will be missed by saving them for maybe Part-3. Anyway, hope you all are enjoying this great weekend!