Eat This Now: Pho at Saigon de Pho

Categories: Eat This Now

saigon-de-pho.jpg
Dave Lieberman
Decent Vietnamese inside a mall? Are you phở-king kidding me?
It was with great trepidation that I sat down at a table at Saigon de Pho, a new Vietnamese restaurant in the Santa Ana Mainplace mall. It had all the hallmarks of a mistake in the making: the location in a mall so soulless that it could literally be in any city in America; the fancy décor with the wall of running water; the IKEA-chic tables and chairs; the American-style service.

I very nearly abandoned the effort to attempt it; I had already composed a snarky introduction to this place, this soup den in the extremely non-Asian wolf's lair.

And yet when I ordered chả giò, they were accompanied by an herb platter the likes of which has never been seen in Orange County: thickly curled lettuce, perilla leaf the size of my hand, and basil so fresh it snapped off the stems. If only they had had the crenellated crusts that are the shibboleth of Vietnamese egg rolls versus Chinese!

The phở, too, is a classical Vietnamese menu translated into fluent English. There's thickly sliced flank steak barely held together by soft connective tissue; there are tendons with just the right combination of chewiness and crunch; there are beef meatballs, and there is a side plate layered with deep, dark red filet mignon, meant to be cooked in the broth. You can practically feel your anemia fleeing.

There is a separate bowl of nearly-boiling broth there; while the main bowl of pho cools quickly thanks to the mass of noodles in the center, this broth stays warm enough to cook your filet mignon to rare. Of course, when you're done, you can add it to your big bowl. The noodles are a bit clumpy, perhaps because it wasn't very busy and they'd sat, but a few minutes of assault from my chopsticks and they fell apart into nicely cooked, springy rice sticks. The broth was rich and viscous, and most importantly, it smelled of the charred onion that is required to make it.

So what if it's $7.95 for a bowl of phở that would cost $6 in Little Saigon? You're not in Little Saigon. You're a few steps away from the ridiculously pompous Nordstrom. You can bring a date (but not a first date) here. They check on you now and then; they bring you the check instead of making you go up to the counter for it.

The biggest compliment I can pay Saigon de Pho is that it's a Little Saigon restaurant transported to the most soulless, sterile environment possible: a suburban shopping mall. And given the other options in the mall, like California Pizza Kitchen and the microwave-chic Olive Garden, this is far and away your best choice.

Inside Westfield Mainplace, 2800 N. Main St., Suite 1030, Santa Ana; 714-550-0755.

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20 comments
caroldbreault
caroldbreault

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Andy Au
Andy Au

Pho Cali on Harbor/1st St. gives you A LOT of meat for under $7 for an extra large bowl or pho xe lua. Pho is fantastic!

Andy Au
Andy Au

I rate pho on these criteria: 1) Soup base 2) Amount of noodles on a bowl 3) Amount of meat, tendon, tripe on a bowl 4) It's it worth going back to the restaurant

Hung Ho
Hung Ho

So many pho places. Where to go and try it.

Minh Vu
Minh Vu

I'm waiting on more Vietnamese people to make a review... Lol no offense to the non-vietnamese customers

Rod Barajas
Rod Barajas

Let's do this Pho Shizzle my Nizzle!!!!

Fernando Rios
Fernando Rios

Place is always deserted when i walk by its almost sad. Might have to cruise in one of these day

Jessica Enriquez
Jessica Enriquez

That's the best one !! They also have another location off bolsa and bushard

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

I'll make sure to drop by the next time I'm at that mall.

A completely unrelated side note: the Westfield Main Place Mall is so abysmal and soulless that the grammar school educated security team (in a effort to breakup the hellish boredom of their job) think its funny to violate my civil rights through harassment when I'm present in same mall. A natural consequence of living in a County with #donaldsterling racist maggot types masquerading as law enforcers. What's really funny is when this garbage hides behind Latino and black security guards to commit their hate crimes.

serracho
serracho

nice. the mall is in fact abysmal, but this is the closest pho joint to my house and i go there often (without ever entering the mall). the other odd, but great, thing is that they actually have some good beer on tap and in bottles. yum. 

Debaser7
Debaser7

@18usc241 As usual, you post a non-sequiter about your secret battle with The Man.  This was a restaurant review, not an invitation for your unstable paranoid mind drippings.  Pitiful.

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

10-4 idiot.

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