two and a half seconds, Oceanside Pier

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pho Ever

We had a lovely dinner out with friends Sunday night. She is an educator, he a biologist and amateur botanist, not to mention model railroad aficionado. 

Collectors of unusual and esoteric succulents, they had a specimen of pseudobombax ellipticum displaying a nifty bloom that bordered on the sublime yesterday. 

The bombax, also known as the Mexican Shaving Brush tree, is an arboreal wonder of the hemisphere. Its wood is sometimes used in churches in Mexico and Central America.

I had seen the flower a day earlier, at peak and it was magnificent. Lost a bit in a day but still remarkable. Looks like it is hatching out of an old turtle shell.

We piled into a car and headed for Vista. I eat a lot of vietnamese food on the road and except for an occasional Banh Minh sandwich at Pechanga, rarely ever in San Diego or Riverside County. Haven't found a place around here that ever really thrilled me.

Pho Ever
485 S Melrose Dr
Ste 106

VistaCA 92081
(760) 630-3837
Pho Ever

I had heard good things about Pho Ever, the Vietnamese restaurant near the Vista Court House on Melrose, and was anxious to try it. It is located near Thai One On, one of the best Thai places around. Our friends had been there many times and really liked it and I am so glad that they turned us on and accompanied us for our trial dinner.

We started the meal with the Bo Tai Chanh, lemon cured steak tartare, made with filet mignon. This is a Vietnamese delicacy, very refreshing, absolutely scrumptious. The Vietnamese do not believe in overcooking meat. This one is simply cured in citric acid.

This dish is traditionally served with a variety of accoutrements including rau răm (Vietnamese coriander), tía tô (red perilla), and ngò ôm (rice paddy herb).

One taste and you will be hooked!

I ordered a Vietnamese iced coffee to drink, the sweet condensed milk on the bottom of the french roast strainer waiting to be stirred. Leslie ordered a Vietnamese beer. A bunch of excellent dishes soon came flying our way. 

A well seasoned barbecued pork chop on a bed of rice. Absolutely fabulous.

Pan fried noodles. Delicious crispy crunchy taste in the middle of a juicy mix of meat and vegetables.

A marvelous and crispy Vietnamese crepe, Bahn Xeo. Wrap it up in the lettuce, rau ram and coriander and you are good to go but eat it while it is hot! 

Perhaps the most incredible thing we ordered was the Bun Bo Hue. This is a very old dish, it comes from a time when the imperial Vietnamese court was located in the ancient capitol of Hue. it is made with an old school simmer, long and slow cooked beef bones making a rich stock that is mixed with shrimp paste and sometimes pig blood, knuckles and oxtails. The dish we were served was subtle and heavenly. Fit for a king.

Vietnam is such an interesting country. I wrote a course book on its history once and did a fair amount of studying on the subject. A proud and singular people, they had to face incursions from various neighbors and interlopers throughout history and always eventually regained their sovereignty. And they also received some vital food knowledge in the interim.

Two of the prime interlopers were the Chinese and the French, who coincidentally have two of the most esteemed cuisines in the world. The great french food writer Escoffier maintained that the Chinese had the most advanced culinary arts in the world, purportedly bemused by their over one thousand different ways to cook an egg.

The French were exploitive and tyrannical in their rule of Indochina, really horrifying. But they did leave the Vietnamese with the legacy of what I think is the most highly developed and wonderful food in all of Asia. Certainly the most sophisticated.

Five is an important number in Vietnamese cooking. I am not sure if this is a confucian or taoist remnant. There are five taste senses (ngũ vị): spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (Earth), five vital organs ((ngũ tạng): gall bladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach, and urinary bladder), five nutrients ( (ngũ chất): powder, water or liquid, mineral elements, protein and fat) five food colors ((ngũ sắc): white (metal), green (wood), yellow (Earth), red (fire) and black (water)

When I practiced Hung Gar kung fu many years ago, I learned what was known as a five animal system. My specialty was, maybe you guessed it, the crane. Always had an affectation for long necked birds, from herons to phoenixes.

In any case the Vietnamese are very sensitive to the yin and yang of tastes, balancing cool with hot and flavor with texture. Here is a good wiki primer on the cuisine.

This is a fantastic restaurant. The staff was attentive and helpful. I hear it is near impossible to get a seat at lunch, with all the courthouse traffic so I would try a midweek dinner. Our table mate stated that she wants to try every special. I hope I am there for at least part of the way.

1 comment:

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

Yes! Great review. We'll get over there as soon as we can.