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Nov 20, 2008 08:26 AM

Phở La Jolla

This place is new and just opened around the corner from work. I tried to get a Banh mi during my lunch break yesterday. They advertise them but dont have them.

Anyone give it a try yet? Where does the level of the beef soup mark at?

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  1. Oh, should I be excited about Pho in the hood? Where exactly is it?

    2 Replies
    1. re: foodiechick

      located next to international market and grill!
      3211 Holiday Ct. La Jolla, CA 92037

      i'll be going there... in about 5 minutes. i love how it's right across the street from UCSD. super awesome. will let ya'll know how it is.

      Pho La Jolla
      3211 Holiday Ct, La Jolla, CA 92037

      1. re: ray9x

        Oh good. That sushi place is gone. Way expensive and not very good.

      1. we just saw it last week, passing by. will report when we make it there. crossing our fingers that it's good!!

        1. Maybe moving to La Jolla and was worried there was no Pho in La Jolla!
          But there is!
          Easger to read some reviews on the food there.

          1. I decided to check out Pho La Jolla tonight, since a decent pho shop in that area, though unlikely, could come in handy someday...

            With very much the same feeling that I first had when hearing of a place called Rudy's having good carne asada, (yeah right, with a name like that and on the corner of El Camino Real and La Costa Blvd. in a new and highly capitalized shopping center), (which turned out to have an incredible carne asada and was an offspring of an original location in Eden Gardens), I was hoping to beat the odds.

            A small shop tucked two doors down from Yummy Maki Yummy Box (jeesh!) and right next to a new yogurt place, I found the space to have an incredible awkwardness in how they decided to arrange the chairs and tables. Indeed their space is probably too small to properly accommodate as many seats as they shoehorned in.

            The menu covered a wide range, from pho to bun to banh mi to sides, drinks, and desserts. (Did they have com tam? Sorry I forgot, but I think they did given that they also offered fried egg amongst the sides...) Given the location I was also glad to see that the pho listed most of the typical combinations, with the Vietnamese names in parentheses. Encouraged by seeing all of this, I even checked to see if they had bun bo Hue, preparing to chuckle if I were to find it on the menu. But alas that would be providing too much ethnic funk for this location. They also did offer beef stew, but could not find any cari ga.

            When the waiter arrived, which was almost immediately, I ordered in Vietnamese. (No, I only now "restaurant VN"...) So I requested pho tai gan sach w/tai rieng, chen soup, nuoc beo, hanh dam, and cafe su da. (This translates into Pho w/rare steak, tendon and tripe, with the rare steak on the side, a small bowl of soup, fatty broth, sliced vinegared onions, and VN drip coffee w/condensed milk.)

            I was happy to see that the waiter both understood my pronunciation of Vietnamese, and that they indulged me in ordering all of these extra accoutrement, all of which I assume I don't get charged for but only adds to the number of plates and bowls that needs to be bussed...

            My order promptly arrived, and my first impression was that everything looked very "clean" - for the most part as neatly plated as one could expect for what is essentially street food. The bowl of pho was glistening, but looked amazingly pale - this probably wouldn't be a pho of the earthy or rustic type. The tai was sparse, comprising of only 5 meager slices. The veg was very weak in quantity, and for the most part fresh except for the bean sprouts. There were only two small slices of japapeno!, a scant pile of bean sprouts, only one small stalk of basil, and the tiniest sliver of lime.

            Also spare was the nuoc beo, with only 5 sticks of green onion and barely 3 spoonfulls worth of nuoc.

            Assembling everything together but cooking the tai one piece at a time in the chen soup just before consuming them, I found it to be a pretty lackluster, uninteresting bowl of pho. With almost no aroma or depth to speak of, even the nuoc beo had none of the umami I was looking for; it might as well have been just a bowl of vegetable oil. As to the contents of the main bowl the gan was cut very small and thin, the easy way to avoid a long and slow cooking time to properly render it bite tender. The sach was present in sufficient quantity, though.

            Unfortunately the tiny pieces of gan took away all of its potential joy, depriving it of what could have been in more competent hands a tender but still toothy texture with the magical ability to absorb and concentrate the flavors of the broth. I like my gan cut thick, as they do most wonderfully at Pho Hoa Cali Express in Mira Mesa...

            And the cafe su da? Well I'm not expecting fireworks with drinks of this type, but they put in way too much condensed milk and not enough hot water, resulting in a drink that was far too syrupy and sweet.

            Photos to be posted soon...

            10 Replies
            1. re: cgfan

              Thanks for the review. Looks like I'll still be driving to Clairemont Mesa to get my Pho. Guess I shouldn't be too surprised that theres yet another mediocre asian restaurant in UTC.

              1. re: mliew

                I'd welcome mediocre; what we have in the UTC area is "pedestrian" in my book. It's pretty sad when PF Chang's enters your list of options when you think "I'm in a mood for something Asian".

                [Gee, I'm starting to sound like the Old Man.]

                1. re: RB Hound

                  You do have a point - when it's down to a choice between a mediocre but independently-run ethnic restaurant vs. a corporate-run "concept restaurant", mediocre wins all the time in my book!

                  But is that really the only choice? For those who find themselves in the UTC area it can't be *that* bad a drive out to one of the several Vietnamese restaurants along Mira Mesa Blvd...

                  1. re: cgfan

                    What about those Pho restaurants in PB? Any good at all? Is there any place in the PB area that makes a decent Bahn Mi?

                    1. re: cgfan

                      What if you are w/o a car, or you going to lunch and you are trying to keep the trip a minimal distance? Yeah, yeah - I know that San Diego's mantra is "have car, will travel." I also know that a lot of people take 2 hour lunches and think nothing of it.

                    2. re: RB Hound

                      I thought it was pretty good, had lunch there today. Yeah it is set up very tightly but they are really going after the college crowd here, as they are located almost across the street from UCSD.

                      Have I had better? Sure but this was pretty good and for anyone who knows this area, it is a step in the right direction.

                      We have such a lousy selection of inexpensive places to eat, most tend towards the more commercial low end joints like Rubio's or Chipotle's.

                      I thought the amount of meat in my Pho was respectable, I have had many bowls with WAY LESS. I thought it was a fair deal. I agree that the broth did not pack the umami character that the poster above mentioned. It was very spicy, lots of pepper and cardomom. But I liked the flavors and even thought there are darker, richer broths out there, this one had a good intensity of flavor. I think the amount of veggies on the side plate was fine. This is a lunch place and they are trying to serve and affordable plate without breaking their bank and honestly it was plenty of food.

                      I got a rare beef with flank and was actually fairly impressed with the amount of meat and felt that the side veggies were exactly what I wanted. The bowl was only about $6.35 so I find it very hard to complain.

                      I would say if you live in the area, you will definitely want this on your rounds, but if you live farther away, you may just want to hit the Kearny and Clairemont Mesa area, where you can find some slightly better spots.

                      As for me, I live right next to this place and am happy to have it nearby.

                  2. re: cgfan

                    BTW I can't be the only CH'er who's actually eaten there? Anyone else care to submit their review?

                    True, my experience there left me less than enthusiastic about the place, but all the more I'd hate to have my experience there be the only word on these boards.

                    1. re: cgfan

                      cgfan--we haven't been yet and if Pho Hoa Cali is better (and it's currently our fave in SD), we may be saving our time, $$ and calories for Pho Hoa Cali. We trust your judgment!

                      1. re: daantaat

                        daantaat, great to hear from you. Yes PHCE (Pho Hoa Cali Express, Mira Mesa) in my opinion is much, much better. They are currently my favorite too amongst the pho shops that I frequent.

                        In fact I like them for all of their dishes, from the pho to the com tam to the bun to the bo kho to the cari ga as well as an occasional bun bo Hue. And as mentioned in my review, I particularly like how thick they cut their gan, while still keeping it tender but toothy.

                    2. re: cgfan

                      Sorry for the delay - I finally posted some pics of my visit:

                      Funny, what I thought were already 5 meager slices of tai turned out to be only 4 when I looked at my pics...