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Oct 23, 2010 07:15 PM

Vietnamese in San Diego

Where do you go for what? Do you have a specific place you like to go for bun or com tam or pho or goi cuon etc. I'd like to know

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  1. For pho, I go to Saigon (ECB), Saigon on Fifth (nearly identical pho- same waiter, even) or Phong Tran- all are about the same. I've been to the new place in near the Midway Post office- also pretty good.

    1. for pho--Pho Cow Cali or Lucky Pho. Both off Mira Mesa Blvd. Main difference is the broth. Pho Cow's is fragrant, light but flavorful. Lucky's is heavier and denser in flavor. Lucky's also seems saltier b/c I end up drinking a gallon of water later in the day, although it doesn't taste salty.

      Pho Cow Cali's bun is pretty good.

      I've been told that if you want good pho, go to a place that has "pho" in the name, o/w you risk the broth not being as good as it should be.

      8 Replies
      1. re: daantaat

        For Pho my regular haunt is Pho Cow Cali (Mira Mesa Blvd) since I work in the Sorrento Mesa area. I agree wholeheartedly regarding the difference between PCC and Pho Lucky just on the other side of Black Mtn. Rd. PCC's broth is clearer but still has good color to it, while Pho Lucky's broth is brothier and less refined, so it provides a good change of pace.

        (Everthing about Pho Lucky's bowl is on the rustic side. Witness their Nuoc Beo, which can sometimes be downright ugly compared to PCC's crystaline yellow Nuoc Beo...) I see PCC as my favorite Pho since Pho San Marcos seem to have changed ownership and the quality of their Pho has suffered... Also I really like how PCC does their Gan for Pho, as they always cut it into nice, thick slices that I really enjoy.

        Still on Pho, I still say the best Pho noodles are at Pho Saigon in Escondido, but I don't get out there often enough.

        For Bun Bo Hue I like Pho Convoy's version the best. It's never so funky as to be a challenge as some can be, but it still offers plenty of personality. I especially like how they serve it with a shrimp paste mixture, so I can dial it in to my heart's content - which usually means adding most of the shrimp paste into the bowl.

        For Mi I really enjoy Luong Hai Ky in Mira Mesa, though ironically I never liked their Convoy Blvd. location where Phat is now. I often also prefer to order the Mi dry, particularly during the hotter months and other times for a good change of pace. Their broth for Mi is really tasty, and they also have a very good Mi noodle which is nice and resilient with plenty of flavor. Their dumplings are always decent, though not mind-blowing; still they are nice and tenderly packed, and always hand made on the premises. Their Mi Ga is also very nice.

        For Mi Xao I also like Luong Hai Ky as well as for their fried rice, though sometimes it might get a bit on the oily side. (I particularly enjoy their fried rice with salted fish, though it can be a hefty sodium hit for sure!)

        For Mi Ga Bo Kho (va Gan) I really enjoy Tan Ky Mi Gia's version. I like theirs above others as they cut their Gan into huge cube-like chunks, but always cooked perfectly tender but with adequate tooth remaining. And their stew is nice and beefy... (However as in most Bo Kho's I've had, the quality of the Bo is debatable...)

        For Com Tam dishes PCC also comes out consistently on top. Their BBQ dishes are consistently my favorite in S.D.

        I don't often have Bun (other than Bun Bo Hue), but if I were to choose, I'd also choose PCC for the strength of their BBQ items.

        For non-BBQ Com dishes I like to choose Luong Hai Ky, as they really do a great job on their roasted fowl (various options) as well as on their chili-garlic-pork, practically a specialty of theirs.

        For Pho Ga I'll usually choose either Bolsa or Pho VN?, though I have mixed feelings about both restauraunts. Bolsa I find to be of middling quality for nearly everything, (though I used to like their Xao dishes), but I do like their Pho Ga. Pho VN nervously gets my vote for the best Pho Ga, but all of their other items are so disasterously bad that I'm always nervous recommending them or even visiting there my self. But somehow their Pho Ga (I always request for on the bone) is nice and somehow almost smokey in flavor.

        And finally for my Durian shakes, I like to go to the new VN deli on the other side of China Chef from Bolsa.

        Bolsa Restaurant
        9225 Mira Mesa Blvd Ste 118, San Diego, CA 92126

        Pho San Marcos
        700 S Rancho Santa Fe Rd, San Marcos, CA 92078

        Luong Hai Ky Restaurant
        4633 Convoy St Ste 107, San Diego, CA 92111

        Pho Convoy
        4647 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

        Pho Lucky
        770 Sycamore Ave, Vista, CA 92083

        Tan Ky Mi Gia
        9330 Mira Mesa Blvd Ste A, San Diego, CA 92126

        1. re: cgfan

          great write up! Do any of the Linda Vista Pho places stand out among the others nearby?

          1. re: MrKrispy

            Honestly the few I've tried hasn't impressed me, but then again I'm not VN. But I really am crazy about the food, just not what I've had in LV. If you count Kearny Mesa as being part of the same area, then my rec. right now would be for Pho Convoy, and especially for Bun Bo Hue. (Kearny Mesa never really had much in terms of choice for good Pho, until Pho Convoy suddenly really improved a year or two ago...)

            Pho Convoy
            4647 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

            1. re: MrKrispy

              Pho Hoa in LV behind the roller skating rink used to be the best Pho in San Diego, maybe equal with the Pho Hoa on Euclid and El Cajon. I haven't been back in ages, and they did change owners, so I'm not sure anymore. Some law school classmates from Garden Grove/Westminster said it's better than anything he gets up there.

              Pho Hoa Restaurant
              4717 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115

              1. re: deeznuts

                Pho Hoa in LV has been my go-to pho place for years. I have yet to find better broth. It's still the best place for pho in the city, IMO.

            2. re: cgfan

              Thanks for the Pho Convoy rec, cgfan! I haven't been in ages, but went a few days ago for the first time in year. Great bowl of pho ca vien (fish broth, fish balls, fish cake, and rice noodles) and their nem nuong cuon is delicious. Most places like to compress the nem nuong (grilled pork meatballs) into an unidentifiable loaf, but Pho Convoy keeps theirs as proper meatballs and they had a nice char to them. The rolls were properly wrapped with sprigs of Chinese chive and the dipping sauce was decent.

              Pho Convoy
              4647 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

              1. re: geekyfoodie

                I'm glad you liked the rec, gf! I like to rec them for the KM area since they used to be, now more than a year ago, an anti-rec of mine. Something suddenly changed in their food, menus, interior, etc. that really brought the quality to the point where they are now.

            3. re: daantaat

              I'm a big fan of the bun at Pho Cow Cali.

            4. A Chau on ECB

              Cha gio (egg rolls) and chao tom (grilled ground shrimp with sugar cane)

              Thanh Son on ECB

              All manner of Viet snacks: banh cuon (rice noodle rolls), banh it (sticky rice dumplings with shrimp/pork filling), and banh beo (steamed rice patties topped with dried shrimp, mung bean, and scallions). They also do a decent braised pork belly with hard-boiled eggs.

              Minh Ky on ECB

              Mi (egg noodle) dishes. They have an ok roast duck.

              Phuong Trang on Convoy

              Com tam (broken rice) and the beef wrapped in caul fat

              Mien Trung in Linda Vista

              Bun bo hue (although I haven't been in a long while)

              Sorrento European Bakery in Mira Mesa

              Pate chaud (the flaky puff pastry buns with a pork meatball in the middle)

              Pho Viet Cali in Mira Mesa

              Nem nuong cuon (grilled pork spring rolls)... theirs have a crunchy rolled-up-fried egg roll skin in the middle, which is wonderful. Great dipping sauce.

              Bolsa in Mira Mesa

              Pho ga

              My latest obsession is bun mang vit (duck noodle soup with bamboo shoots) and KirkK has some good leads on a decent bowl. Haven't had time to explore those leads, though.

              Phuong Trang Restaurant
              4170 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

              Bolsa Restaurant
              9225 Mira Mesa Blvd Ste 118, San Diego, CA 92126

              Mien Trung Restaurant
              7530 Mesa College Dr Ste A, San Diego, CA 92111

              11 Replies
              1. re: geekyfoodie

                I bounce back and forth form Pho Cow Cali and Lucky depending on mood for #1 Pho, I do like Bolsa for Pho Ga and also the Banh Xeo, any other recs on where to get Banh Xeo? Mien Trung is the only place I get Bun Bo Hue, just because I have not had it as good anywhere else in SD. I will have to give Pho Convoy a shot. Great topic KR.

                Bolsa Restaurant
                9225 Mira Mesa Blvd Ste 118, San Diego, CA 92126

                Mien Trung Restaurant
                7530 Mesa College Dr Ste A, San Diego, CA 92111

                Pho Convoy
                4647 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

                1. re: stevuchan

                  Have not been eating Pho recently but mostly have gone to Pho Cow Cali which was recommended by a coworker who is VN.
                  I have to ask, why go to Bolsa for Pho Ga, what makes it better?
                  Asking because that is mostly what I order.
                  I also like the salad rolls, but most places to a mediocre job on those.
                  i like lots of mint, basil and crunchy vegetables.

                  Never had Banh Xeo but just looked it up and it looks yummy.

                  1. re: pantani

                    I would say the broth at Bolsa, very tastsy without being overly salty. Had a chat with one of the owners and she mentioned a crazy number of chickens that go into the broth (she might have said 30). Bolsa aslo have very good Cha Gio that always arrive nuclear hot.

                    Bolsa Restaurant
                    9225 Mira Mesa Blvd Ste 118, San Diego, CA 92126

                  2. re: stevuchan

                    There is a place down south that is supposed to be the best Bun Bo Hue ever, a true hole in the wall though. Like, literally almost a hole in the wall. I'll have to ask my friends/mom for the name. Not a great area I hear (I've never gone to get it)

                    I like lucky pho but hte last time I went my girlfriend and I both complained about the noodles. They were so overcooked they were breaking up when we picked them up with chopsticks. Dissappointing.

                    Didn't help that the server was picking his teeth with a toothpick in the open, then without washing his hands continued to serve Hah! I don't care about those things, but she does.

                    1. re: deeznuts

                      Deez, would really like to check out the Bun Bo Hue spot down south, let me know. Many people have refered to Lucky as "Rustic".

                      1. re: stevuchan

                        My parents love the place. They don't even go to Cow Cali unless it's with one of us (kids). It does remind me of the pho we would get in Vietnam in the more rural areas when I visited. I've had good pho there. Just this one time the noodles were way overcooked. Battling a hangover I needed some real good pho too hah.

                        1. re: stevuchan

                          Ok, my girlfriend has told me it's Hoai Hue, and they moved. Not a hole in the wall anymore, but in the newer business center on el cajon blvd and euclid. Not 100% sure that's what I had (it was 10 years ago when My ex girlfriend lived down south) but that's what the new GF said and her mom is Hue who takes her food seriously enough.

                          Darn, now I want some.

                          1. re: deeznuts

                            Thanks Deez, I will check it out. I think KirKK wrote something up on the place. More convienently located, for me at least.

                            1. re: stevuchan

                              The interesting thing about Hoai Hue, is that I've been told the family who owns and runs the place aren't really from Hue. Whenever I mentioned the place to my VN friends that's the first thing they tell me. Still they serve the appropriate cuts, and do a better job of doing the meat than Mien Trung. Not enough lemongrass and other seasonings so I still prefer the broth at Mien Trung, but much better than Pho shop Bun Bo Hue, where they use Pho broth and ad some spice, and cover the whole thing up with liberal use of Mam Tom.

                              1. re: KirkK

                                mien trung really is a bold broth but then again Im not a big fan of lemongrass (eek) so possibly that's why I liked Hoai before. I know, how do I not like lemongrass. Basically if I notice it, I'm not going to like it. However My gf's cousin ordered two humongous pots of mien trung bun bo hue for her daughters birthday a couple months ago and it was pretty darn good too though. I should do a taste off comparing the two just to see which I prefer now.

                                Funny about them not being from Hue, as I said earlier my gf's mom is, and she didn't say anything hah.

                    2. re: geekyfoodie

                      Just to add to my A Chau rec... turns out their delicious chao tom comes in a banh mi, which makes one helluva sandwich. Just in case anyone needs a change in their usual banh mi selection.

                    3. Tried Pho Cow Cali over the weekend, what a wonderful broth! Thanks for the heads up, I would have never seen that place.

                      1. There is a dish with pork hock and hard boiled egg simmered in fragrant broth with coconut water. I don't know the name of the dish, but would like to find a place that has it- Any leads? I think it is popular as a New Years dish.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: lyn

                          Com Tom- Pho Hiep & Grill (linda vista). I usually get the grilled shrimp and sliced round steak, or just the shrimp. Good egg rolls.

                          Pho chin- Pho Convoy. Has been consistently good every time.

                          I was surprised to see Sorrento European Bakery in this thread, my girlfriend absolutely adored that place when I lived in Scripps Ranch. Their black and white cookie...a great food memory. (smile)

                          Pho Convoy
                          4647 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

                          1. re: SteveRB

                            I circumstantially happened to be at Pho Hiep & Grill in LV today.

                            It's not often I go there, and when I do it's almost always because I'm very hungry and order one of their com tam plates (as you do). Very tasty and the servings are generous. (My favorite is their com tam ga nuong.)

                            But today I ordered their pho chin (fatty, well-cooked brisket). I don't say much about Pho Hiep, but this bowl was excellent and a very good value. A nice surprise.

                            1. re: DoctorChow

                              Yesterday I went on a mission to compare the pho chin at Pho Hiep with that at Pho Hoa (around the corner). The latter is my (and my companion's) "usual" favorite place for pho and bun.

                              Summary: The pho chin at Pho Hoa was no match for that at Pho Hiep.

                              Yes, Pho Hoa has the best pho broth in town, hands down IMO, but when it comes to pho chin, it just doesn't work well.

                              One broth does not fit all.

                              The "fatty brisket" at Pho Hiep was fall-off-the bone" tender, in the way that a wonderful low-and-slow smoked BBQ brisket would be, and it was fairly thick-cut (about 3mm).

                              The meat at Pho Hoa was thin (about 1mm, as in pho tai), and tough.

                              I've been less than happy about other things at Pho Hiep, unfortunately.

                              For example: The pho tai there lags, and the bun bo hue is way below average.

                              I'd say stick to their com tam dishes and this standout, pho chin.

                              Pass on the pho chin at Pho Hoa though, and go with pho tai, pho bo vien, pho tom; or bun dishes, like bun thit nuong or bun tom nuong.

                              1. re: DoctorChow

                                I can never remember which is which. One is by the donut place and one is by the laundromat. We usually go to the laundromat just because the service seems to be much easier to deal with there. haven't been to the other one in at least 6 years so maybe things have changed, but I enjoyed the pho there before we gave up on it.

                                1. re: MrKrispy

                                  Pho Hoa is near the donut place. Pho Hiep is by the laundromat.

                          2. re: lyn

                            The dish is called Thit Kho. I However have no advice on where to find it. My mum's is the best version I have ever had :) She makes it with salted duck eggs.

                            1. re: r32nissan

                              Older post, but this is probably what is talked about. Thit Kho Trung. Usually made at home. Uber comfort food dish, and if you give birth and your mom or mother in law is Vietnamese, they'll insist you only eat this for one month straight. No joke.


                              1. re: r32nissan

                                "Mum" is Vietnamese wit a British influence?

                                I love this. :)

                                1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                  LOL - Australian born and raised but now in NYC for the past 3 years. Presently on my first trip to San Diago. Saying farewell tonight and driving up the PCH tomorrow. It's been a blast.

                                2. re: r32nissan

                                  Que Huong on University has thit kho.