Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Saigon Flavor - The Triad of SGV Pho

When I heard about the Golden Deli fire a while back, I had to drive over to Main/Mission to see for myself. My dad actually CALLED me to inform me of this tragedy, but reassured me that Golden Deli had lucked out. Turns out that everything to the right of Golden Deli had been burned down, including 7-11, a laundromat, a Chinese DVD store ironically named Firelink and a random gift shop that sells those ugly head visors you see Chinese people sporting these days. Sure enough, the God of Pho, extinguished the fire before it could burn down what San Gabriel Valley hails as the Shrine of Pho. Much like pizza and sushi in LA, the discussion of the Best Pho in the San Gabriel Valley can turn into a sour riot - with people overturning cars and vandalising property. In my opinion, I put Golden Deli #1. Here's my review on my top three places in SGV.

For those that are fans of Golden Deli, you probably know that Vietnam House right across the street is owned by a relative. But they also have another sister restaurant, Saigon Flavor on Valley/Del Mar. Woohoo! I've been to Vietnam House and tasted no difference in the pho - it was perfect.

Although some people may turn to Vietnam House and Saigon Flavor as an alternative to waiting the usual 20 minutes at Golden Deli, they will soon find that you can't beat around the bush. People know the quality of all three of these restaurants.

Before going to the Banksy art exhibition in the warehouse district of LA, I headed over to Saigon Flavor for the quelling of a severe hangover. Pho is really the best solution to a hangover. The flavoring of the soup wakes you up and makes you smile. I parked right in front and found myself writing my name on a clipboard. Crap, there were 6 other parties in front of me. Eventually I got called and got put at a table for six. I felt bad and told the server that I wouldn't mind waiting for a single table. She put me there anyway. Embarrassed by the fact that I occupied a sixth of the table, I quickly ordered my usual Pho Chin Nam (well-done brisket) and a side order of two egg rolls. Glancing at the menu, I noticed that it was exactly the same as GD and VH's. Quality-assured. 10 minutes later, my piping hot bowl of goodness arrived. I eventually swapped seats with a party of 4.

Cha Gio (Egg Rolls)
Hands down the best Vietnamese egg rolls I've ever eaten. These were like taquitos! Much bigger than the ones served at GD. GD/VH/SF all serve 5 egg rolls per order, unlike the usual 4 at other restaurants. How do they make their skin so flaky/crispy?! 2 egg rolls $1.60 with no fixings. I think it's $5.95 for 5 egg rolls.

Pho Chin Nam (Well-done Brisket)
The reason I love Golden Deli is because of their soup quality. Look at the deep brown color in the broth. It's a result of a longer browning process with the bones and the addition of browned onions. The soup is clear and never fatty. Of course, there is the magic of MSG. Compared to other Vietnamese restaurants, I don't feel as thirsty after eating GD's pho.

Pho Chin Nam (Well-done Brisket)
GD really gives you a decent portion of beef. Sometimes I have to take them out of the bowl and set them aside. They get in the way of the noodles!

Again, here's the link to my three favorite pho restaurants in San Gabriel Valley. Thanks for reading.

Saigon Flavor
208 E. Valley Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 572-6036


elmomonster said...

Those are the longest, most scrumptious looking cha gio I've ever seen! Taquitos is right! And what's that stuff crusted on the shell? Spun sugar?!

eatdrinknbmerry said...


Yes those cha gios are twin-bazookas. good value, good taste and good size. I really don't know how they make their skin flaky. they definitely don't use the standard chinese egg roll wrappers - those taste flat to me.

rickmond said...

i think golden deli is a little bit better than it's siblings. maybe it's the atmosphere, but i'm gonna go out on a limb and say that the broth is just a litte more delicately flavorful or the noodles just sit a bit better in the GD bowl. i do go to vietnam house from time to time if GD is too crowded or not open. only been to saigon flavor once and was a little less impressed, but i can see how the three of them are related...

Chubbypanda said...

Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. It makes me depressed considering what we have to work with on the Pho front in Irvine.

I know what you mean abut pho wars though. I asked a few of my Vietnamese coworkers for Westminster pho restuarant recommendations last week, and once we'd gotten past the standard "my mom makes the best pho" they started arguing about it. Still are, actually.

- CP

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Rickmond, yeah I think Golden Deli is better. But i'd be happy with either of the three. They are still better than a lot of other pho places in SGV.

Chubby, when I was at UCI, I used to go to this one place next to Caspian persian called Quanh Thanh. It wasn't bad. After they closed, I went to a place called Pho Bac on Barranca/Culver. Not bad either. I didn't mind driving to Bolsa to get pho either. You'll never win an argument over pho... just stick to what you like.

Jeni said...

Buy me sunthing!

sneakypeteiii said...

When I first saw the fire at the GD mall, I was with an old pho buddy from out of town. I had driven from Pasadena over to Westwood to pick him up just so we could go to GD back in San Gabriel.

Needless to say we were deeply saddened by the tragedy, but by then our pho craving was so strong that we went to Saigon flavor anyway.

That's when I noticed that their menu is exactly the same as one at GD because all they did was glu a piece of paper that says "Saigon flavor" on top of where it says "Golden Deli." Everything was going to be alright.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Jeni, buy yieu a bic bow of pho?

Laurence, you know how I feel then. I used to go to GD every weekend a few years back. Seriously, they smacked on different covers for the menus at VH and SF. My friend lives next door to the owner of GD and says there are always funky smells coming out of there. He thinks he makes his own fish sauce haha. Whatever he's doing, he's doing a good job.

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

People disregard the use of bones these days and it's saddening.

They don't realise the best stock/soup can be made from this...

eatdrinknbmerry said...


In response to the bones, MSG is a good way to achieve that 'beefy' taste. It's a way to keep costs down on food b/c making beef stock is expensive. Thanks for dropping by.

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