poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


Pho Off!

Since moving to the Bay Area, my favorite pho place has been Pho Saigon II at the Pacific East Mall in El Cerrito/Richmond. In fact, the pho there is so good that it almost always deterred me from going to the very tempting VH Noodle House just next door. The broth is flavorful but not greasy, the noodles have great chewy texture, and the meat appears to be of good quality.

The combination pho at Pho Saigon II.

The combination pho at Pho Saigon II, medium bowl.*

Recently, SB took me to her favorite pho place, Yummy Yummy in the Inner Sunset District, which she’s been raving about for years. Once the bowl came, I instantly knew why SB loves it so much: the serving size was HUGE! I enjoyed the flavor but I felt extremely overwhelmed by the quantity of noodles. For once, I actually experienced noodle overload, which made me sad. So, I think the winner for me, especially considering location/proximity, is Pho Saigon II.

Combination pho at Yummy Yummy, large bowl.*

Combination pho at Yummy Yummy, large bowl.

Barbeque beef for the DIY rolls that SB and JB ordered.

Barbeque beef for the DIY rolls that SB and JB ordered at Yummy Yummy.

*First photo from my new camera! Look for a new page dedicated for photography soon!!


On the road again

Last month, I went to Baltimore for work, and stayed a little while longer to hang out with friends and family.  Apart from the food at the workshop I was attending, which would be best described as “upscale dorm style/cafeteria food,” I ate very well. (Photos are posted below in gallery-style.)

First stop: lunch with EF at one of the few pho places in Baltimore, which happened to be about a block away from her house.  I was warned that the pho was “just so-so,” but after 3 days consuming the aforementioned cafeteria food, I was really craving some noodles and I wasn’t about to discriminate.  True, the rice noodles did taste a little factory-made, but the broth was good and so were the meatballs.  After lunch, we stopped by a newly opened vegan bakery for cupcakes.  The space had a cool industrial/art gallery vibe, and the guys running it were super nice.  This place wouldn’t have stood out in Berkeley or Brooklyn, but I should note that EF’s neighborhood is the very antithesis of Berkeley (i.e poor and black), and so it was really interesting to see a cheerful bakery brightening the urban landscape.

For dinner, EF, her boyfriend (now fiance… congrats, guys!), and I went to one of their favorite restaurants: The Brewer’s Art.  Delicious microbrewed beer and one of the best damn cheeseburgers I have ever had.  It was juicy, fresh, and cooked to perfection.  I also dug the dark interior of the basement, which in some ways made the food even more delicious, because I wasn’t expecting such good food to come out of a pseudo-divey place.

The next day, my sister treated EF and I to a sushi buffet lunch at Yuraku, which I’ve blogged about before, so I won’t belabor the point except to say it was great.

The feeding frenzy continued at a cozy dinner party at T&E’s.  T made chicken piccata from one of Giada’s cookbooks and served it over a bed of couscous.  She also made a fabulous salad of field greens with cherry tomatoes, candied pecans, and croutons (much like the one I daydreamed about previously).  I was very thankful that T graciously honored my request to serve the crumbled goat cheese on the side, instead of mixing it in with the salad.

Cheese-related aside: I know it’s probably very shocking to some of you, and in fact I myself am quite embarrassed, that I, as a foodie, do not like goat cheese. But alas, it’s true. Goat cheese makes me want to vomit. It is some sort of nasty byproduct of the Devil’s waste. Blech.

Anyway! Back to the tasty meal.  Dessert was a super delicous chocolate cake served a la mode.  After dinner, we worked off some calories with several hours of Wii Fit, which was mostly fun but occasionally embarrassing (especially the soccer ball heading task.  God, I suck at that.)

The next day was a blur, as I did my couch potato thing and watched about 10 hours of March Madness.  I sat on my sister’s new recliner and ate junk food all day: Costco pizza, chicken wings, and lemon meringue pie. It was awesomely indulgent, but I felt a little queasy after it was all over.

Finally, my last meal involved noodles (hooray!) and bubble tea from another branch of Asia Taste, which I blogged about before.  EF and I actually got to the place too early — the bubbles weren’t cooked yet, and it was going to be another 45 minutes.  So, we decided to eat our noodles and then order our bubble teas to go.  Despite my bubble tea fanaticism and our 6+ years of friendship, EF had never tried it before.  I don’t really blame her since she’s never lived anywhere with trustworthy bubble tea.  I mean, I wouldn’t touch bubble tea from Chapel Hill, NC with a 100 foot pole, no matter how desperate I am.  Anyway, so I think EF was really glad to hold on to her bubble tea virginity for as long as she did, because her first experience was a good one.  I was glad too, relieved that she was not frightened by the chewiness of the bubbles (or pearls), as many people are.  Success!


Pho Shizzle

Pho at Pho Hua

Pho at Pho Hoa

You don’t know me very well if you aren’t aware that I LOVE NOODLES. It’s what I crave when I’m starving, when my stomach feels bad, when I’m homesick, or basically all of the time. In short, it’s my number one comfort food. And I don’t discriminate. I love all kinds of noodles: pasta, pad thai, ramen, pho, chow mein…

Today, I had pho at Pho Hoa in Berkeley. I ordered my usual: regular size #5, steak with flank. Sometimes I mix it up with meatballs, but I wasn’t feeling that meatbally today, if you know what I mean. I’ve been a regular at Pho Hoa since I moved to Berkeley three years ago. And when I say regular, I mean religious, must-go-once-a-week type of behavior. Normally, I don’t like going to chain restaurants, so I was sort of upset when I found out that Pho Hoa was a franchise chain operation. But my stomach was happy, so I decided to overlook the chain aspect/my liberal guilt/snobbery and concentrate on the food, which is delicious. Sometimes I deviate from the pho and get the vermicelli salad bowls, which are also delicious and are so big that there’s enough leftover for lunch the next day. And guess what? They’re full of noodles too!

Why do I prefer pho at Pho Hoa, as opposed to some of the other pho places in Berkeley? The flavor of the broth is good and not too salty, the meat and veggies always look fresh, and the noodles are not overcooked. I also like the fact that the restaurant is quite sanitary, unlike some other noodle shops I’ve frequented.

In fact, the first place I experienced pho was in College Park, Maryland. My sister PY took me there, and we joked that it was called Pho 99 because the noodles were “$4.99.” It was cafeteria-style with rows of tables that you had to share with strangers. On an unlucky day, I might have sat next to a swarthy looking Vietnamese man leering at me through his rice noodle laden chopsticks. I distinctly remember one dinner which ended up being free because I found a gnat in my soup. Yeah, so compared to Pho 99, Pho Hoa is a real classy joint.

UPDATE (15 August 2010): I returned from a trip to find that Pho Hoa is now officially closed. Apparently they were hit pretty hard by the economy and were forced to close their doors. I’m very sad about this development and I will truly miss you, Pho Hoa.