For lunch today I decided to get the car washed and get some gas. I went down to Irvine to the shopping center off Jeffrey and Bryan. After getting the car washed I was going to have a gyro at Daphne’s but decided to try Pho Ha Noi. This place used to be the Saigon Grille.
I went inside and it was empty. I walked in and waited a few minutes before someone came out. I asked for a menu and was trying to make a choice. I told them it was for here, but wanted to eat outside. I ordered the Goi Cuon, shrimp and pork eggroll wrapped in rice paper. When the plate arrived it looked nice – it also came with a peanut sauce for dipping. When I picked it up, it felt a bit thick, the wrapper, that is. I dipped it inthe sauce and found the sauce to be a bit thick too. My first bite had some flavor from the peanut sauce, but the rest was kind of bland. The wrapper was very chewy and the insides were kinda dry. The noodles inside lacked any moisture. The pork pieces were dry and the shrimp a bit rubbery.
For my entrée I decided to have Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio which is vermicelli rice noodles with bean sprouts, lettuce, cucumber, carrots, cilantro, green onions and peanuts served with grilled pork and a fried eggroll. When it got to the table it looked nice. It also came with a small bowl of Nuoc Mam Cham – a Vietnamese fish dipping sauce. For those of you not familiar wth Bun, its like Pho, just not in a broth/soup. You pour the Nuoc Mam Cham into your bowl to give the noodles some liquid and flavor. My sauce was very diluted and did help with breaking up the clumps of rice noodles. The grilled pork was very chewy but lacked any flavor. The only thing I really enjoyed on the plate was the fried eggroll that was sliced into 4 pieces. I dipped it into the sauce. I had about 6 chopstick servings of noodles with the various vegetables and I was done. I was filling up on something that was flavorless to me.
I went in with some expectations, but sadly walked away disappointed. I think the first clue should have been that the place was empty. Baskin Robbins was busy with patrons as was Daphne’s and Starbucks. Perhaps I should always remember that for good Pho or Bun, I should go to Westminster. If I’m up in LA’s Silverlake/Echo Park area, the place to go is Pho Cafe.