Felt like having some Pho', but have been rather put off by the lousy service and the crowds at Phuong Trang. We've been finding that if we want to eat at Phuong Trang we need to get there before 530pm, and it's now 630, otherwise we'd sometimes be on the receiving end of some very slow and rude service - I don't think that their able to handle the crowds.
So having been through Pho Tau Bay (very flavorful...but too much fat/too oily, there always seems to be somthing undigestable with every meal) Pho Pastuer (most things other than the Pho' is ok, though a bit more expensive...still haven't tried the Alligator), we thought we'd try Pho' HoaCali on Clairemont Mesa Blvd (next to Ethan Allen's)...who basically advertises itself as "Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Restaurant".
So since it's a Pho' place I had the #1 Extra Large Bowl w/Rare Steak, Brisket, Tendon, Flank, and Tripe, Yi had the Tai (Rare Steak), and we order both Cha Gio and Goi Cuon, always best to start with the basics.
Cha Gio - Was a bit different than what I'm used too, a bit longer, looked closer to a Chinese Eggroll than the Vietnamese, but I enjoyed the texture, more crisp and crunchy than the usual, which also made them seem "lighter" than usual...very pleasant, except for one thing...6 rolls, 3 lettuce leaves, you do the math. But overall I like these better than most places. $4.25
Goi Cuon - Nothing spectacular, tasted ok, just average..... 2 rolls - $3.00
Now to the Pho'. The broth was alot lighter than any I've had, very mild, and not salty, but tasted very pleasant with definite beef flavor and just enough fat floating around, much better than Saigon, not as rich as Phuong Trang. Also the amount of meat seemed to be less, as well as a very small amount of "condiments" (i.e. basil, bean sprouts, etc...), this seemed to be a recurring theme. The brisket stood out as the most flavorful, better than most places I've been to. The best thing about the Pho' where the noodles....not soft, but just right perfectly 'al dente', chewy with just enough "pull"...my wife the noodle snob proclaimed this the best noodles in any bowl of Pho' she's had.
Xlarge Bowl of Pho' $4.40
Pho - Tai 4.00
Overall, not as good as Phuong Trang, but good enough, we left sated(you could say "it hit the spot"), with a pleasant enough experience to safely say we'll be back....especially when we don't want to deal with the masses at Phuong Trang.
Place was busy, but not crowded, with alot of older Asian Men and "student types"....
7351 Clairemont Mesa Blvd