4648 Convoy St., #101-B
San Diego, CA 92111
By Judi Curry
When I reviewed “Saigon” a few weeks ago, I likened that restaurant to one that my husband and I liked many years ago. That restaurant was “Pho Convoy”. The “gang of five” that were part of the “Saigon” group suggested that we try Pho Convoy and make a comparison of the two.
Thursday night we set out to do just that. Three of us are journalists for the San Diego Free Press – Anna, Rich, and myself, along with George and Mary who were visiting from D.C.
I have to start this review by saying that there is no way that a comparison can be made of the two restaurants. First of all, there were eight of us at “Saigon” and only 5 here. All of us ordered soup and only one person ordered soup at the first restaurant. And, because we all ordered soup, even though of different ingredients, we did not share what we had so comparisons were not made. In essence, then, this is a review of “Pho Convoy” without any comparison to any other restaurant.
The menu is extensive – and after almost every item there is a picture of what the menu item looks like. There are over 100 items offered, plus three pages of drinks – smoothies – replete with photographs.
There are appetizer’s – starting at $4.15 and going up to $7.95; Noodle Soups – 15 varieties – and a “regular” order is $5.65 while a “large” order is $6.75. There are “Bagguette’s – $4.15-$4.95; “Broken Rice” dishes starting at $6.95 and going to $13.75; “Vermicelli dishes ranging from $6.95- $13.75; “Thin Rice Vermicelli” with a range from $9.50-$18.25; Rice Dishes from $6.95-$7.85; Four Vegetarian Dishes from $4.95- $8.95; Five Egg Noodle/Rice Noodle Soups – $6.55-$6.95; Stir Fried Egg Noodle were all $8.95 and the Curry dishes ranged from $6.75 -$16.75. Also offered were 7 Chef Special’s, ranging from $10.25-$18.95.
When we arrived at 6:30pm we were surprised to find that the place was practically empty. There was only one other table occupied, and it shortly became vacant. When we left there were 8 tables filled, in a very large room that had more empty tables than filled ones. This was on a Thursday evening, and we hoped it wasn’t an omen .
Our waitress, Cindy, was delightful and sat us away from the door at a table that easily sat the five of us. Cindy was able to answer all questions that we had – something I did not find at “Saigon” – and that made the meal more enjoyable for us. In fact, in placing his order for “Bun Bo Hue” Rich ordered the “large” size. Cindy looked at him and said “regular”. Rich, misunderstanding what she meant – as we all did – repeated “large.” Cindy again looked at him, shook her head, and said “regular.” He got the point – and the regular was more than enough!
We started out with two appetizers – shrimp and pork salad rolls that came as 2 large rolls. Cindy suggested that we order 1 ½ orders and they would cut them in the kitchen so that we each had a taste. We appreciated her suggestion.
We also ordered a Cha Gio Tom – like a fried spring roll – except the filling was fresh shrimp, pumpkin, carrot, taro and three kinds of cheeses. It was different and very tasty. Both appetizers came with fresh lettuce – to wrap the Cha Gio Tom in, fresh mint ,and fish sauce to dip the rolls in.
George ordered the Pho Rau Cai Tofu – which was mixed vegetables with rice. ($5.65). He said it was very good but had not realized that the “PHO” soups were all beef based. Next time he would order a soup that was chicken based. Mary, on the other hand, ordered Hu Tieu hoac Mi Rau Cai Dau Hu – which was vegetables and tofu with a choice of egg or rice noodle, and this was served in a chicken broth. She was very happy with her choice, and said she would order it again.
Anna ordered the Hu Tieu Dai Tomn Yum (Cay) which was a Thai style spicy clear noodle with shrimp, squid, fish cake and fish balls. Although very tasty, she said that the squid was tough and somewhat difficult to chew. Her meal was $6.95.
I ordered the Hu Tieu hoac Mi Dac Biet – the house special combo, consisting of BBQ pork, shrimp, fish balls, and my choice of egg or rice noodles. I chose the egg noodles and asked for squid to be added to the dish. It cost $6.95 and was very tasty. My squid was not tough, and I enjoyed it. The shrimp was cooked perfectly.
In comparing the meal with the others, both George and I said the same thing – it could have been a little bit more spicy. Few things on the menu were labeled “hot”, and I would have liked to have had a little more “heat” in what I was eating. There were additional condiments on the table, but nothing I felt I wanted to add into my bowl.
Anna ordered a Soursop smoothie and we all tasted it. It was very good and in quoting Wikipedia, “The flavour has been described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with sour citrus flavour notes contrasting with an underlying creamy flavour reminiscent of coconut or banana. “ No wonder it was tasty!
Overall the meal was very satisfying, but no way could we compare it to “Saigon”. They are separate entities unto themselves. The one fault we found had nothing to do with the food itself, but with the napkin arrangement. On the table was a napkin holder, with small, 1 ply napkins in it. It was large and awkward and for that reason was positioned at the end of the table. The only one that could reach it easily was George, and he found himself giving napkins to all of us many times during the meal. Since so much of what was eaten consisted of “finger foods” this was a nuisance to all of us, and, in fact, Anna got up from her seat several times to get a fresh napkin rather than to have to disturb George. I think that if heavier napkins had been set at the table, this problem could be eliminated.
When I was asked if I wanted a box to take home my leftovers, one of the helpers came over to the table and put the soup into the container herself. She then put the container in a plastic bag and tied it tightly. This was a nice touch.
The total meal for the 5 of us came to $60 and some change, before tip. The meal was good; not as good as I remembered it, and I might go back again or I might not. Certainly our waitress helped make the meal a memorable one, and except for the very crowded parking lot, we all had an enjoyable evening.