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Best Pho and Worst Pho I've had

kare_raisu Jan 6, 2011 10:18 AM

Succumbing to a cold twice this winter so far, I've been on the Pho beat.

So far the best broth that I've come across has been at Pho on 5th Ave. I like that everything tastes fresh here and the quality is high - though that can be said of the price as well. Their meats are good especially the brisket and tendon. I almost always leave happy here. And my favorite waiter from Saigon now works here.

The worst I've ever had in San Diego was at Pho Convoy about a week or two ago. I actually took a few tastes and asked for the check and left. Broth was bland and msg laden - the meats were really questionable - as far as their age and seemed freezer burned. Their goi cuon's sliced boiled pork seemed to verge on rancid.

I've yet to be Lucky Pho - thats next on the list.

-----
Pho Convoy
4647 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

  1. r
    royaljester Jan 18, 2011 06:11 PM

    Yeah, Pho 5th Avenue is the best by far. As OP points out, it is priced accordingly. Their mignon meat is perfect, and broth is excellent. It was $9 for a mignon bowl.

    On a tangent, I stopped by the Pinkberry a block down from here, and they have a pretty decent blood orange yogurt based off of their excellent plain recipe. The lady in front of me was a veteran and got almond toppings which I highly recommend here.

    -----
    Pinkberry
    209 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

    1. e
      Eat Local Eat Well Jan 17, 2011 02:51 PM

      Pho Cado on Mira Mesa Blvd at Camino Ruiz is a favorite. Good broth and fresh veggies. Service is the best in town and the prices are great.

      1. t
        The Office Goat Jan 10, 2011 03:39 PM

        Well I took a bullet for all of you a few years ago and tried the worst pho in San Diego. It was from a place inside the downtown SD Superior Court food court, and the place has since mercifully closed and become something else.

        Holy Mother of God it was like bad noodles served in dirty dishwater. How they served that with a straight face I'll never know.

        1 Reply
        1. re: The Office Goat
          d
          daantaat Jan 10, 2011 08:29 PM

          you get a medal for this!

        2. k
          karaethon Jan 8, 2011 01:45 PM

          I'm probably going to be eviscerated on this post from people who tried this place and didn't like it, but here goes:

          So this thread reminded me that around early November I went to try the pho at Mignon Pho+Grill. When I was there, I was less than impressed because the pho felt like it was missing something and for the prices they charge I wanted to be fully satisfied. I had pretty much decided I was not going to return, but the owner or manage (Hui) came up to me afterwards to solicit my opinion on the food.

          Long story short, he said that they removed all the fat from their soup because the weekday lunch clientele didn't want fatty pho broth, but he was sure what I was missing was the fat. He made me promise to come back and try it.

          Fast forward 2 months and there I was walking in the door and Hui totally remembering me. After some small talk, I again ordered the filet mignon pho but this time asked him to put fat into the broth. What a difference some fat makes.

          I was always able to taste that the ingredients they used were a step above the normal (as the flavors are a little more distinct and don't get muddled together), but once the fat was back in the broth the end product was excellent. The broth was dark and rich like Pho Lucky, but because the ingredients used to make it were better, the flavors came out more.

          The other thing I learned was that they provided a 3rd herb in addition to ngo gai and basil, which I thought last time was micro-basil. However, that herb totally overwhelmed the flavors of the other herbs so I left it out this time.

          Sorry if bad photo quality - taken with iphone

          -----
          Pho Lucky
          770 Sycamore Ave, Vista, CA 92083

           
           
           
          6 Replies
          1. re: karaethon
            d
            daantaat Jan 8, 2011 02:07 PM

            a little fat in moderation always helps bring out flavors! so does a properly salted dish.

            1. re: karaethon
              kare_raisu Jan 9, 2011 07:12 PM

              That looks really good - cant wait to try!! Thanks

              1. re: kare_raisu
                k
                karaethon Jan 10, 2011 07:23 AM

                Just make sure you ask for fat (either in the soup or on the side to add as needed)

                1. re: karaethon
                  cgfan Jan 10, 2011 07:36 AM

                  Just as an FYI, one can request Nuoc Beo at most any Pho shop to get the small bowl of fatty broth w/green onions.

                  1. re: cgfan
                    k
                    karaethon Jan 10, 2011 07:42 AM

                    Yeah I know that, but at Mignon Pho+Grill, they deliberately remove as much of the Nuoc Beo as they can before serving. According to Hui (manager/owner) they started with the rich Nuoc Beo but most of their clientele preferred not to have it. Apparently most of their clients that prefer to have it with Nuoc Beo (their friends) know to request it in addition.

              2. re: karaethon
                thirtyeyes Jan 13, 2011 07:37 PM

                Well, I just went there for the first time and I though something was odd about the broth. It wasn't bad but it seemed lacking. I'm glad I read this post.

                The other thing I really, really like about this place is that they offer free soda refills. I hate getting the 12 oz can at most Pho places.

              3. i
                ikeg Jan 6, 2011 06:01 PM

                The best pho I've had in San Diego is at Pho King down on El Cajon and Menlo. No MSG and you can really taste the vietnamese cinnamon in the broth. After that, it's kind of a toss up-- I like Pho Lucky in Mira Mesa and Pho Hoa Hiep on Linda Vista road.

                If you're ever up in Orange County, you should check out this place called Pho Thanh Lich in Westminster. They have the best pho I've eaten-- great broth, really fresh noodles, and filet mignon.

                -----
                Pho Hoa Hiep Restaurant
                6947 Linda Vista Rd Ste H, San Diego, CA 92111

                Pho King
                4658 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115

                11 Replies
                1. re: ikeg
                  kare_raisu Jan 7, 2011 01:23 AM

                  I went to Pho King and thought it was decent. Broth tastes better at 5th ave. thanks for the oc recc

                  -----
                  Pho King
                  4658 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115

                  1. re: kare_raisu
                    Josh Jan 7, 2011 01:40 AM

                    I remember Lucky's being pretty good. I especially liked their pho tai.

                    Still, hard to make that drive when 5th Ave. is so close.

                    1. re: Josh
                      Fake Name Jan 7, 2011 05:50 AM

                      5th is so much like Saigon, I suspect an overlap of ownership. But the thing that's missing is the deep, red/brown dark chile oil/paste at Saigon. Love that stuff, and all the other places use the cheesy red/orange or Siriacha which is at best inauthentic.

                      Phoung Trang has a pretty good pho, as does the new place Pho Loma or something across from the Midway Post Office near O Reillys auto parts.

                      But neither have the good stuff.

                      1. re: Fake Name
                        kare_raisu Jan 7, 2011 07:09 AM

                        Yes! that ground chile paste is one of the best parts about Saigon! Anyone know the name ? Like you say the other stuff dosent cut it!

                        1. re: Fake Name
                          Josh Jan 7, 2011 09:57 AM

                          They have both kinds of chili paste at 5th, they just don't leave them on the table. You can ask for chili paste - which is the chunky red stuff - or something that they call, I think, saté (at least that was how it sounded to me), which is a dark brown paste made from dried chilies and oil.

                          The chunky red chili paste is in the fridge up front, the dark stuff comes from the kitchen.

                          1. re: Josh
                            kare_raisu Jan 9, 2011 07:13 PM

                            I meant to thank you for letting me on to the secret name of the sate. I missed it and it was soo good!

                            1. re: kare_raisu
                              h
                              hye Jan 13, 2011 11:53 AM

                              Saté is correct. You can find it in some of the Vietnamese supermarkets (not sure about Ranch 99, Zion, or the Japanese ones). I find it varies a lot from place to place, with the sauce at Cow Cali being my favorite.

                    2. re: ikeg
                      g
                      graphicnatured Jan 7, 2011 09:00 AM

                      Pho King. That's hilarious.

                      -----
                      Pho King
                      4658 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115

                      1. re: graphicnatured
                        c
                        carli Jan 7, 2011 05:17 PM

                        Oh yeah, the Pho King name has provided a steady source of amusement in our family, among our kids, who frequently make any lame excuse to say it. You probably get the picture..."Gosh, we haven't been to Pho King (giggle, giggle) lately"... "Wow, we sure do like Pho King (snicker, snicker)", etc, etc. It's gotten kind of old, but even now, when we talk about going for pho, the kids always have to suggest Pho King several times over, and somehow, I think it's not just about how much they like the pho there.

                        -----
                        Pho King
                        4658 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115

                        1. re: carli
                          choctastic Jan 9, 2011 05:47 AM

                          Hmm, is this a chain? There's one in Northridge as well, that does a great filet mignon pho.

                          I am so proud of refraining from making the many jokes that come to mind.

                          1. re: choctastic
                            h
                            hye Jan 13, 2011 11:54 AM

                            I'm sure it has been stumbled upon independently by many pho restaurant owners. I'm betting there are a couple of places called "Pho Q" around as well. :)

                    3. cgfan Jan 6, 2011 05:13 PM

                      Yikes, the worst you've ever had was at Pho Convoy? Wow I've been recommending Pho Convoy as my favorite Pho in the area and eat there very regularly (except for the last 3 weeks while in Japan)... Was it with one visit by itself or after a series of recent visits?

                      For me it used to be a far different experience a couple of years ago until their Pho had suddenly improved, seemingly out of the blue (but coincident with a revamped interior and menus - but they claimed that there were no changes at the time...). Wonder if they had somehow regressed back to their less than stellar beginnings, all of a sudden.

                      Will have to return soon, perhaps this weekend, as if I had never read this thread, but in the meantime I'm puzzled... After all your name rings high with me on my CH scale of respected views... Our tastes can't be THAT different, can it? (But then again my personal preferences go towards the lighter, but fragrant, broths for Pho, though I'll take a beefier broth as a change of pace from time to time...)

                      -----
                      Pho Convoy
                      4647 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: cgfan
                        kare_raisu Jan 6, 2011 05:40 PM

                        I only went there that single time - I remember it being praised. I was pretty marred so I dont think ill be back.

                        If we both can agree on the great soup over at Las Brisas - I think we have similar tastes :).

                        I am far from an expert on pho but not a mere novice either so maybe check out pho on 5th.

                        1. re: kare_raisu
                          k
                          karaethon Jan 7, 2011 07:28 AM

                          I've also been to Pho Convoy at the recommendation of this board and found it disappointing - pretty much the exact same complaints made by kare_raisu.

                          IIRC, I also ordered spring rolls when I went and they tasted stale like they had been sitting in the fridge for more than a day.

                          That said, I don't think that's the worst bowl. There's some pho shop that's in the Sorrento Valley food court (don't even remember the name). The broth was tasteless and it wasn't hot enough so the rare meat never cooked (this coming from someone that loves raw beef) and tasted a little rancid as a result. The bowl was also smaller because they decided to serve in a plastic bowl. I'm guessing normal pho restaurants you get at least 96 oz bowls, but this one was probably in the 64 oz range.

                          For best bowl, I'd have to go with Pho Lucky (although they are inconsistent also).

                          -----
                          Pho Convoy
                          4647 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

                          Pho Lucky
                          770 Sycamore Ave, Vista, CA 92083

                          1. re: karaethon
                            m
                            mliew Jan 7, 2011 08:56 AM

                            I've been to Pho Convoy a couple times after reading that it had improved and found it to be pretty good, so I can vouch for cgfans claims :). No rancid meat or tasteless broth. I still prefer Pho Lucky and Pho Hoa in Linda Vista though (although I haven't been to Pho Hoa for a long time they used to have superior meat quality).

                            Pho T Cali was my all around go to place for a long time. Even though their Pho isn't the greatest they are pretty good all around in terms of spring rolls, egg rolls, and rice dishes so they were always a good choice for variety. However the past couple times their Pho broth was on the bland and salty side.

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

                            Pho T Cali Restaurant
                            7351 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92111

                            Pho Convoy
                            4647 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

                            Pho Lucky
                            770 Sycamore Ave, Vista, CA 92083

                            1. re: mliew
                              cgfan Jan 7, 2011 09:44 PM

                              Well I'm detecting a clear pattern here that might explain what amounts to different preferences.

                              One of my favorite bowls of Pho in San Diego is at Pho Cow Cali (Mira Mesa), whose bowl I prefer most of the time over others when given a choice. However right across the street is Pho Lucky, whose bowl I find to be much more rustic and brothy, but not as refined. Since noting that the three respondents favored Pho Lucky's broth, perhaps it amounts to whether one likes an "Usukuchi" vs. "Koikuchi" (light vs. heavy) broth? Pho Cow Cali serves an exquisite broth that's still on the light side in color, but fragrant and layered with flavors. Pho Lucky has a distinctly different personality, which to me tastes robust but lacks in subtlety. In fact I'll go to Pho Lucky as a change of pace from my usual bowl at Pho Cow Cali.

                              To me Pho Convoy's bowl is indeed of the lighter style, but bland or insipid it certainly is not, at least to me. (For insipid or bland, my example would be Pho Ca Dao in Mira Mesa...)

                              As to the spring rolls I've never ordered them there, so I can't speak to that.

                              I still say that Pho Convoy clearly has my favorite bowl in the area, and I particularly enjoy their Bun Bo Hue, though rather unusually I haven't been there within the past month...

                              -----
                              Pho Ca Dao Restaurant
                              8373 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92126

                              Pho Convoy
                              4647 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

                              Pho Lucky
                              770 Sycamore Ave, Vista, CA 92083

                              1. re: cgfan
                                cgfan Jan 8, 2011 01:31 PM

                                Well for whatever it's worth I just finished a bowl at Pho Convoy & I certainly would not be able to recommend, nor recognize, the bowl I just had. Wonder if there has been some recent changes or perhaps I've just been sleeping at the wheel...

                                They do have a change of ownership sign posted, if that gives out any clues....

                                -----
                                Pho Convoy
                                4647 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

                                1. re: cgfan
                                  cgfan Jan 17, 2011 04:46 PM

                                  Not sure if last week's bowl was just a fluke, but I just had a repeat bowl and it seems like they're back on track again. (Mind you it's not a fave, but my personal choice for Pho in the area... Funny how hard it is to find a good bowl of Pho in Kearny Mesa... I did recently try Mignon+Pho and wasn't very impressed w/their broth.)

                                  I suspect much of the debate here has more to do with style vs. quality, at least w/respect to their broth, which is definitely of a lighter style that I happen to enjoy, though my faves are still Pho Cow Cali (Mira Mesa) (and Pho San Marcos before they changed ownership)...

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

                      2. Fake Name Jan 6, 2011 11:17 AM

                        "And my favorite waiter from Saigon now works here."

                        Black glasses, right?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Fake Name
                          Josh Jan 6, 2011 02:41 PM

                          :-)

                          The wife and I were similarly happy to see him there, too.

                          1. re: Fake Name
                            kare_raisu Jan 6, 2011 05:35 PM

                            yessir!

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