Driving down Fremont St. in Seaside yesterday, I saw a "Grand Opening" sign for Pho King. An actual Vietnamese restaurant on the Monterey peninsula? Be still my heart ... Returned for lunch today with mrpea. Several of the dozen or so tables were full at 2:00 pm, so that seemed like a good sign, especially since the restaurant has only been open for about three weeks.
The menu is a little schizophrenic, with both Vietnamese and Chinese selections. Apps include fried egg rolls, shrimp and pork spring rolls, fried garlic wings, Vietnamese shrimp and pork crepe, pot stickers, fried wonton, and a few others. On to the mains: several varieties of pho, with combinations of rare beef, tendon, beef ball, tripe and brisket, plus plain chicken and chicken with liver and gizzard ($5.00 regular, $5.75 large); bun (described as "off the grill cold noodle bowls"), including beef, pork, five-spice chicken, garlic prawns and lemongrass beef ($5.75); five "off the grill rice plates," which include rice and salad ($5.75); chow mein and fried rice ($5.00 and $5.75), plus nearly 20 "Wok King" specials, Chinese dishes served either as rice plates ($5.55) or a la carte ($8.95).
We started with fried egg rolls ($4.00 for four) - sort of a cross-cultural affair, with a Chinese-style wrapper and a Vietnamese-style filling. A little greasy but tasty; unfortunately, no mint or lettuce (except the bit of iceberg used as a plate liner). The nuoc mam (dipping sauce) was a little too tame but otherwise pretty good. The Vietnamese couple next to us had the spring rolls, which looked really fresh -- they said they were delicious and authentic.
I had the pho tai (rare beef); mrpea the pho tai, bo vien (rare beef, beef ball). They were served with the usual bean sprouts, purple basil, chile slices (serrano, I think), and lime wedges, plus the table condiments of sriracha and hoisin. The broth was pretty good; could have been a little richer and more complex, but it had a nice (if light) beefy taste and was not the least fatty. Good proportion of noodles to broth and about the right amount of beef for me (but I like it a little light on the meat). mrpea was not crazy about the texture of the beef balls, but I thought they were great. Unfortunately, we didn't see the bun, but a couple of rice plates near us (bbq beef and bbq pork chop) looked large and appeared to be satisfying the twenty-somethings who were eating them.
All in all, I was pretty pleased. It may not have been the best pho I've ever had, but it was certainly competent -- and definitely the best I've had in the Monterey area (vbg)! I'll happily go back and explore the menu further.
1153 Fremont St.
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