Pho Hoa

So I had never had pho until freshman year in college when I got introduced to this magical dish. I don’t know whether it really cures hangovers but I know its absolutely delicious and I love my pho tai. Even if it might be full of MSG.

There is nothing like watching those thin thin slices of rare steak cook in steaming hot beef broth with rice noodles, thinly sliced onions and herbs until the steak is mostly cooked thru but just kissed with pink in the center. At that point I add the fresh basil leaves, as much of the bean sprouts as I can (surreptitiously if I have to share my pho condiment plate with other people) and a couple slices of jalapeno. After that all I need is some hoisin and sriracha in a little side bowl to dip the slices of steak in. Ok that was a lot of steps but still. SO GOOD.

Pho Tai

Pho Tai. All IPhone Pictures Here Btw. My bad.

I’ve only eaten at a couple pho places in San Diego and so far I find them all good. I probably don’t know enough and haven’t had enough pho to be a good critic of it. I like the pho at Phuong Trang, Pho T Cali and Pho 5th Avenue. Pho La Jolla less so, partly because of the high prices and partly because even I could have guessed pho in La Jolla would not be super legit. But I was excited to try Pho Hoa in City Heights. A lot of people swear by it and its really well-reviewed on Yelp. All they do is pho too so one would think if they are still around they must be doing something right.

See Only Pho.

See, Only Pho.

Overall the verdict was this was pretty good but not amazing. Broth was a little oilier than I’m used to but had a decent beef flavor, noodles were a wee bit clumpy but there was a generous meat portion. However, and take this with a grain of salt as I mentioned before I am by no means a pho expert, I didn’t think it was leaps and bounds better than the pho I have at Pho Fifth Avenue or Phuong Trang.

Pho Condiments

Pho Condiments

I do like that they give you ngo sai (the hidden saw-toothed leaf thats peaking out from underneath the basil in the picture above and that I initially thought was a rogue weed that made it onto the plate) as I had never tried it before. I also pretty much like all herbs and often ate the herb garnishes off peoples plates as a child like a rabbit. So more/new herbs is always a good thing for me. Service was also very efficient, they take your order and set down the pho condiments plate and literally 5 minutes later our food was in front of us. The restaurant is definitely bare bones but decently sized.

We ordered the Pho Tai, which are thin slices of rare steak. Weirdly it seemed like some of the steak slices had a pearly sheen to them. No idea what this was and although it must be some kind of connective tissue there was no chewiness or detectable taste besides the steak. Steak was a little tough and could definitely have been more tender, but it was nice to have a lot of beef.

Pho Tai with Bean Sprouts, Basil and Jalapenos

Pho Tai with Bean Sprouts, Basil and Jalapenos

We also ordered the Pho Bo Vien which is beef meatballs. This was ok too but the meatballs could have been more moist. My dining companion was Vietnamese and she said the meat balls her mom buys have (I think) tendon in them so they are yummier/less dry. She also shared my opinion that the pho was good but not worth the drive there.

Pho Bo Vien

Pho Bo Vien

Lastly, I also ordered Che Ba Mau or tri-colored dessert (or three colored dessert? not sure). It comes in a cup with crushed ice which I thought was quite nice. You have the green jellies at the bottom, sweet red beans, and jackfruit; all covered with coconut milk sweetened with condensed milk and a sweet red syrup at the bottom. This was great except I don’t love the sweet red beans, I mostly just stir it up and eat the jellies with the sweetened coconut milk. Definitely melted a little (and ok I ate a lot of it) before I got around to taking the picture, trust me it was much prettier before I mixed everything/it melted.

Three Color Dessert

Three Color Dessert / Che Ba Mau

DSC_0239

DSC_0242

So the final verdict is solid pho but not out-of-this-world pho that is worth driving all the way to City Heights for. Fast service and low prices but in the end I’ll probably just keep going to Pho Fifth Avenue or Phuong Trang which are closer and have other good food options besides pho. Mostly those delicious charred beef rice paper roll things from Phuong Trang. Yum.

CHECK:

Pho Tai $6.50
Pho Bo Vien $7.50
Che Ba Mau $3.00
TOTAL (w/ tax) $18.36

Pho Hoa

4717 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115
(619) 283-6431

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Brooklyn Girl Eatery

Brooklyn Girl is a great spot in Mission Hills doing fresh and inventive food and one of our favorite go-to neighborhood spots. The restaurant has a nice look to it and definitely lives up to its “Brooklyn” title. It’s housed in a warehouse style building but has a cool vibe with modern art on the walls, big crystal chandeliers in bird cages and trees wrapped in lights inside. They have a restaurant seated dining area, a bar area, communal tables and a “pantry” section that sells food items.

Menu

Menu

We have been here a couple times and not only do we love the food but the service seems to be on point here. Also the bar and communal dining tables are great when you want to stop by but do not have a reservation.

The bar area

The bar area

BREAD: In fact you do not get bread, they instead serve you popcorn which has been spiced differently every time we’ve been. Last time it was Thyme and Butter Popcorn (shown below) and the previous time it was a spicier version.

Thyme & Butter Popcorn

Thyme & Butter Popcorn

APPETIZER: Ok. You must try the Bacon Wrapped Vietnamese Meatballs. With a name like that how can you even pass it up? Between the flavorful pork, the crisp salty bacon and the sweet-spicy glaze this hits all the right spots. The slaw on top doesn’t hurt either.

Ginger Glazed Bacon Wrapped Pork Meatballs

Bacon Wrapped Vietnamese Meatballs

Vietnamese Meatball

Vietnamese Meatball

ENTREE: This is one of the few restaurants where the chicken can compete with steak and seafood. Normally we always go for steak/seafood when eating out but here the roasted chicken is amazing. Another fantastic standby is their Williams Burger. You pick between cheddar and blue cheese and can add cherry wood smoked bacon, a fried egg, or fried oysters for extra. We definitely suggest adding the bacon. This burger comes with the classic sides (lettuce, tomatoes, pickle) and the Kobe/Angus beef was cooked to a perfect medium rare. No crazy aioli’s or unusual ingredients, just a classic done right (including the crispy thin fries!). Sometimes you can really tell the caliber of a restaurant when even their salads sound/are delicious. We ordered the Duck and Date salad and if you are a fan of duck this is the dish for you. The duck is falling off the bone tender and comes accompanied by frisee lettuce, spinach, Marcona almonds, chopped up dates and banyals vinaigrette. The richness of the duck pairs well with the sweet chewy dates and the fresh greens, a great cold weather salad (it’s been chilly lately in San Diego!).

Duck and Date Salad

Duck and Date Salad

Williams Burger

Williams Burger

SIDES: One of the must order sides is their Cornbread and Honey: freshly baked cornbread (made to order) with a molten white cheddar core is topped with honeycomb and brought to your table. It’s sweet and salty and we actually prefer it as an appetizer than a side. Another notable side is the Brussels and Bacon. If you normally think of brussel sprouts as limp, yellow-y, boiled bitter little bundles you are in for a treat. They are deep fried until they are shattering-ly crispy on the outside then served with bacon and caramelized pecans. Definitely a fantastic thing to add to your order and we always end up fighting for the last few pecans.

Brussels & Bacon

Brussels & Bacon

Brooklyn Girl has simple but inventive takes on dishes and we like that it makes good food thats relatively affordable. This coupled with the good service and nice ambiance ensures that we will keep returning here, at least until we can find out how to copy those Vietnamese meatballs…

CHECK:
Bacon Wrapped Vietnamese Meatballs $11
Williams Burger $14
Duck and Date $12
Brussels and Bacon $8
TOTAL: $48.60 (w/ tax)

Brooklyn Girl Eatery
4033 Goldfinch St
San Diego, California 92103
brooklyngirleatery.com