Pho 89 opened Thursday next to San Pablo Market in the International Market Place on San Pablo Avenue.
They serve mainly Vietnamese soups, bun, rice plates, a few appetizers, some nice desserts and a number of interesting beverages.
The jackfruit / tapioca shake was excellent. It tasted like real pureed jackfruit was the base. The tapioca balls were excellent too. I had a durian shake too, but that was only ok (see link below).
Of the soups, I liked the beef the best, then the chicken. I was disappointed in the seafood soup, but only because I think they gave me the wrong noodles. It was supposed to have hofun noodles and it tasted like vermicelli to me. Is that another name for vermicelli?
The menu lists other soups with the word vermicelli, so I thought it would be different. And just what is the difference between rice noodles and veremacelli?
The dac biet tho vien special combo with thin slice of steak, well-done brisket, flank tendon, tripe and beef ball had nice meat, nice broth and nice sides.
Im no expert on any of this stuff, but it was delicious. I could detect a little star anise in the broth. I forget from reading other posts if that is a good or bad thing, but I found it pleasant.
All the meats were very thinly sliced so their origins in the cow were not obvious it just looked like either nice thinly sliced beef or fatty bacon. Nice tasting meat ball.
It came with lots of sprouts, excellent basil, cilantro, jalapeño, Sriracha Sauce(I assume, thick like catsup yet hot. Two shades of red) and a lemon.
Since I had a similar soup at another restaurant the day before, I ordered the hu tieu nam vang noodle soup with shrimp, fish cake, slices of pork, ground pork and chicken. This version was far superior to the one I had at Old Saigon, but not as good as the beef soup.
I am of the opinion that seafood may not be the strength here.However, Ive never had another Vietnamese fish soup before. The hu hieu hai san had shrimp, squids, fish cake, and imitation crab.
While it was tasty imitation krab the skin was an alarming color of bright red. Also, I would guess in addition to the krab there was also kalamari. It was odd textured, but then again similar to the texture of the squid at Old Saigon, so maybe this is standard for Vietnamese soup.
I was fascinated by the halo halo which sat in pretty glasses about an inch of yellow bean paste on the bottom, topped with red beans, topped with the prettiest green strips of whatever those noodle-y things are in Vietnamese desserts.
When you order it they put some nice whipped cream stuff over it and topped it with crushed ice. They give you a straw, but I just cant see sucking up that thick bean paste on the bottom. It required a spoon. It was pretty good. I might actually order this again. Im starting to get fond of sweet bean desserts.
They had other sweet desserts too.
The fresh spring rolls looked good too.
Other shake flavors are taro, avocado, strawberry, lychee, mango, mocha and pineapple. The two I had really had the taste of being started with fresh fruit and not just flavoring from a bottle.
Other beverages include various hot and cold takes on Vietnamese coffee, Thai iced tea (can be ordered with pearls), three color drink (that MIGHT be the halo, halo), young coconut juice, fresh lemonade, soybean, salted plum soda and soda with egg yolk and condensed milk.
Not much English spoken really not much they had to call over a customer over to help out when the English speaking person was on break. From what I understand (hah) this is a first restaurant.
And for heavens sake, unless you speak Vietnamese dont ask something stupid in English like whether the hofun noodles are made in-house. I think thats what may have screwed up my order. Very nice people, just no English. I may break out my Vietnamese tapes but then again, I can always point to the menu and order by number.
I think this is a great addition to this neighborhood and really do plan to check out more of the menu.
1250 International Market Plaee
San Pablo, Ca 94806
510 234-6879 (Id only call if you speak Vietnamese)
Open 7 days a week: 9 am 9 pm.
There is a special 10 % off coupon until the end of May. Coupons are near register. Other opening specials this month are free soda, free refill, free balloon (for the kiddies). Halo-halo buy 3 get one free. I think this means any of the pans of desserts because a lady asked about that and mixed and matched.