After reading Jackies mention of George Chungs in the Moosettas thread, linked below, its time for me to post on my one visit there. Early this month I noticed that the marquee along Hwy 12 was promoting pho beef noodle soup, $5.95, and made this my dinner stop.
The young woman behind the counter spoke a little English and I attempted to ask her a few questions about the style of pho here. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: What combinations of beef are available for the pho?
Her: Large bowl, one-size.
Me: OK, what do you put in the pho?
Her: Rice noodle.
Me: Do you have brisket? Fatty brisket?
Her: No, no fat.
Me: Do you have tripe?
Her: No, no tripe.
Her: No, only beef.
Me: All right, only beef. Do you mean rare steak?
Me: OK, Ill have an order of pho, and please put the rare steak on a separate plate and not in the hot soup. And a mango shake.
The gentleman in the kitchen, who doesnt speak any English and presumably is George Chung, brought my food outside to me. When I saw my soup bowl, I laughed so hard that I almost cried, because it was chockfull of tendon, book tripe, and fatty brisket! The meats were cooked properly and flavorful the tender-chewy tripe was cut thinly into feathery strips, the tendon was still toothsome, the fatty brisket was well-striated, and the well-done flank had a deep anisey-flavor. As you can see from the photo below, the rare steak was served on the side, so I guess the woman understood that part or maybe thats the way they always do it here.
The basil was fresh and unblemished. No bean sprouts were provided. The noodles were al dente. But to my dismay, the broth was not very good. It was very dark and murky, actually the darkest Ive seen, and lacking the wonderful fragrance thats so much a part of the pleasure of pho. Also over sweetened, too salty, fishy, and too much anise. I added some lime to counteract all these things, which helped a bit, and got more limes when I went back in to ask for a spoon (which required pantomime to communicate).
My shake was made with fresh, ripe mangoes. However, the softee ice cream base and the plasticine whipped cream on top overpowered the fruit. Next time Id get a smoothie instead.
Even though neither of the things I ordered was faultless, I had a good feeling about this place and the inexpensive and honest food theyre turning out. The assortment is dizzying -- sushi, won tons, mushu pork, hamburgers (6 oz./$3.25), kimchee, catfish, buffalo wings, onion rings, avocado shake, and the most original item, Mongolian cheese steak sandwich, that Im so curious about. Its described as spicy steak, bell pepper, onion, and provolone on a soft roll, $3.95 please, someone try it and report back!
As Jackie says, the patio is beautiful. Hanging pots with delicate fuchsias, shaded containers filled with colorful begonias and impatiens, and young bamboo decorate the lattice-enclosed porch. Someone has a green thumb here. While I cant really recommend the pho over the other Vietnamese choices in Sonoma County ([BROKEN LINK REMOVED]), at these low prices, speed of service, and with the bonus garden room, its menu certainly is a welcome alternative to the McDonalds next door.
Sonoma Express Food
George Chungs Chinese & Sushi Cuisine-Burgers-Fish 'n' Chips
18976 Sonoma Hwy. @ Verano Ave.
(next to McDonalds)
Open Daily, 11am to 8pm