I'd heard about Que Huong a while back, and was excited about giving it a try. So on a recent Sunday morning we decided to pay a visit to Que Huong. Tucked in the back corner of yet another generic strip mall on University Avenue(on the corner of Marlborough Ave and University), Que Huong looks somewhat intimidating with the iron bars and grease board menu with specials written only in Vietnamese outside.
The interior of the restaurant was dark with swap meet artwork on the walls and a definite "pastel" look. How very retro 80's!
There were many items listed on the menu that I've really never seen on in San Diego; like Jack Fruit Salad, and a whole list of fish listed only in Vietnamese.
We placed our order and a "basket" of utensils, napkins, and "wipes" were delivered to our table - a nice change from the usual chopstick and spoons on a plastic holder that we're used too!
We started with the Cha Gio ($4.95), the standard Egg Rolls. These were among the best I've ever had. The garnishes delivered were also outstanding; along with the usual lettuce and mint, were Perilla leaves, tasting almost like shiso, these added a nice flavor. The Nuoc Mam Cam was also outstanding with pieces of garlic, and chilies added for additional flavor.
We also ordered the Duck Banana Salad ($12.95). A large plate piled high with Basil and other herbs, julienned banana blossom, onion, fried shallots and garlic, this made a refreshing dish. Except for the duck, which was a chopped bland duck leg, with bits of bone everywhere. this made for ponderous dish, after cracking your teeth on a few bone chips, you got downright paranoid about eating this. Also, some of the banana blossom had a distinct soapy taste. At the same time a large soup bowl was delivered. At first I said "we didn't order this", but after some explanation we finally figured out that the soup came with the salad. This turned out to be a wonderful rice porridge. There was a nice salty, somewhat garlicky taste. The flavor of the fried garlic, black pepper, and cilantro stood out, with only a hint of fish sauce.
I ordered the Com Tam 7 Mon - the broken rice with 7 meats($8.95). This beautiful looking dish was a mixed bag. The julienned pork, not among my favorite things, was very moist and flavorful, the BBQ pork was outstanding, the egg roll was great (of course), the shrimp cake with bean curd was also excellent. However, the steamed egg (my favorite) was dry and separating, the fish cake was tasteless, the pork cake was also dry, and worst of all the Com Tam (broken rice) was very dry and hard, like it had been sitting for a long time.
Que Huong had done enough to interest me; and when Ed from Yuma Emailed and said he was coming to town, Que Huong immediately came to mind.
I ordered the Cha Gio that was so enjoyable the first time; but this time they were different.But oh what a wonderful mistake this was. It was like the Egg Rolls except with an entire shrimp inside, and the wrappers were much more delicate. I'm printing a picture of this, because I want to make sure I get this next time! Same garnishes along with the excellent Nuoc Mam. Also the price was $7.95 this time. We were having a few problems communicating, but were muddling through.
We also had Roasted Quail ($9.95). This dish was good, but nothing we hadn't had before.
I had heard the Banh Xeo (crepe) here was excellent, so we made sure we got it ($5.95). The crepe sure didn't disappoint, nice a crunchy exterior, moist interior with whole shrimp, ground pork, and lot's of bean sprouts. This was the best Banh Xeo I've had in San Diego. Not oily at all!
Finally the main dish, the Fried Catfish($25.00). This was a major production and took three people to deliver. A plate of rice paper wrappers, a bowl of warm water, garnishes including banana blossom, pickled vegetables, perilla, pickled onion, bean sprouts, lettuce, mint, and I'm sure I left something out. A plate of bun (vermicelli), and Mr Catfish(medium sized), on a bed of lettuce, covered with cilantro. This dish was a "make your own spring roll" thing. That is, you grab a wrapper, dip it in the warm water and start building your spring roll with the garnishes. Than once completed, dip the roll into a little bowl of shrimp paste mixed with garlic and shallots. Sounds great right? Well not really; the catfish in my opinion tasted extremely "muddy" which spoiled the dish for me. Ed, however thought that it was ok.The damage a little over 50 bucks. I think we could have done without the catfish and had a better meal for half the price. But overall this was a really fun experience.
Some notes; the restaurant was empty, not a good sign on a Friday. I hope this place stays around, there are some very good dishes, and I haven't even started on the soups yet. Communication may be a problem, as in my experience with the Egg Rolls. Parking is very limited as the Mall shares spaces with a Burger King and other businesses.
Que Huong Restaurant
4134 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92105
Open 10am to Midnight Daily