Okay, what happened to The Wrath of Con: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday post? Well, there isn’t one. Since we get fed dinner on the last night – calzones this time as made by the catering staff at the Convention Center – we don’t wander out for food. So…nada to write about.
I decided to stay an extra night at the hotel Sunday instead of driving back to LA feeling very zombie-ish. Can we say “risky driving”? This allowed me to satisfy a craving for Vietnamese food Monday. I commandeered “Chef” Eddie as my dining companion for lunch (well, technically breakfast since it was our first meal for the day) and off we went to Pho Cow Cali Express in Mira Mesa, my old stomping grounds.
I used to dine at this place back when it was Pho Hoa Cali. In fact, this was where I was introduced to Vietnamese cuisine by my sister. It had been a while since I stopped in here and despite the name change, not much else was different.
Fortunately, we arrived right before the lunch-time rush so we were seated immediately. We had just cracked open our menus when a waiter came by wanting to know what we wanted. Death, taxes and a waiter hovering around you at a Vietnamese restaurant are the 3 sure things in life. I knew exactly what I wanted. An order of egg rolls (cha gio) and an order of spring rolls (goi cuon) to share and bun with bbq pork and shrimp. Oh and a tri-colored bean drinkie dessert thingy (che ba mao). Eddie copied me on the bun; I think he’s never actually had bun?
A few minutes after our order was placed, the egg rolls and spring rolls arrived. I swear, they have some sort of magic machine that mass-produces these two rolls; they come out of the kitchen so quickly!
I started off with the spring roll. The peanut-hoisin sauce here is great. It’s the right thickness and has good flavor. I’ve had the same sauce at other places and they always taste and feel watered down. The roll itself was good. The shrimp was large and not over-cooked and the rice paper wrapping was of perfect thickness. I’ve had others where the paper was too thin and tore, making for messy eating.
Ah egg rolls… These are served with a side of leaf lettuce and mint. You take an egg roll, tear off a few pieces of mint and wrap them both in the lettuce. Then you dip into the fish sauce mixture (nuoc cham) and enjoy! I love how crispy the egg rolls are here. The thin paper wrapper really fries up nicely. It’s hard to say which I enjoy more…the egg rolls or the spring rolls. I guess I’m stuck with ordering both every time! *oink oink*
We were still working on the egg rolls when our bun arrived. Geebus…there’s speedy service and then there’s Pho Cow Cali. I don’t know why but I think I prefer bun over pho. I’m not a big soup person and have to be in the mood for it which isn’t often. And, I LOVE nuoc cham; bun allows me to get more of this stuff. For those not familiar with this dish, bun is rice vermicelli that is served with some fresh veggies (shredded leaf lettuce, carrots, bean sprouts), the fish sauce mixture and a meat, typically grilled bbq pork. When I’m feeling feisty, I like to also add in some Sriracha for heat.
The bun at Pho Cow Cali is always good. The vermicelli is cooked just right, not too mushy or hard. The cuts of pork aren’t too fatty and the shrimp is always grilled nicely.
After I polished off my bowl of bun, I started work on the che ba mau. This wasn’t as good as I remembered it being but I did let it sit while I ate so I’m guessing the ice melted a little and watered down the coconut milk. I need to remember to order this AFTER the meal. I do like this dessert though because it’s not overly sweet and the texture of the green jelly and the red beans is nice.
The prices here are also very reasonable, bordering on cheap. They have gone up a little since I first started eating here but nothing crazy. A lot of yummy food without breaking the wallet…my kind of place!
4 NOMs for Pho Cow Cali!
Pho Cow Cali
9170 Mira Mesa Blvd
(between Rickert Rd & Black Mountain Rd)
San Diego, CA 92126