Sunday, May 04, 2008

Pho 79 Restaurant - Alhambra

Enough of my taking pictures of budding pomegranates and cherimoya, my cousin was impatiently waiting for us to go out for dinner before I took her to the airport. Her little sister, the oldest '87 was joining us too. You know I have my blonde moments. Apparently, it runs in the family. When my cousin asked where I wanted to go for dinner, I said I wanted Vietnamese food, so she suggested Pho 79.
Pho 79 1
"I thought you wanted Vietnamese food?" the oldest '87 said. Umm what? Pho 79 is Vietnamese food. :P Turned out, she thought I wanted special Vietnamese food. No, it's just when I dine out, it's usually for Chinese or Korean food. I just wanted something homey that I didn't have to cook. Anyway, as I said in my previous post, 1979 was one of the major years of the wave of boat people. Although I've never actually asked them so there may be another significance to their name. Pho 79 is a small chain of six restaurants in Southern California. My favorite location of the chain is the one in Garden Grove on Hazard Avenue, but that's far away so I haven't been there in a while. This is the back of the Alhambra Pho 79. Free parking in the structure on First Street. We arrived during prime dinner time so the restaurant was packed. There were two other families all coming in through the doors at the same time as us. And a very nice man held the door open while all the ladies went through first before he joined his family inside. Also, this location is Zagat-rated so there's a more diverse crowd than the usual pho restaurant. My cousins both ordered pho bo (Vietnamese beef noodle soup). The lighting was pretty bad since it was dinner time, and I already had photos of pho bo so I didn't take pictures of their bowls. But more on that later. I ordered hu tiu/tieu tom cua thit (banh dai) (Vietnamese clear rice noodle soup with shrimp, crab, pork (chewy noodles)) for $5.75. Hu tiu/tieu is a Southern-style Vietnamese soup in a pork-based broth, as opposed to the standard beef-based broth of pho bo and bun bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-style beef noodle soup). If the restaurant offers it, ask or look for banh (noodle) dai (chewy) if you like slightly chewier noodles. Otherwise, you get normal clear rice noodles.
Pho 79 2
My portion was very generous with plenty of noodles, several large pieces of imitation crab, several large pieces of shrimp, and lots of char siu (Chinese barbecued pork). There's also fried shallots, chives, and Chinese celery for a nice sharp contrast in flavor. While we were dining, I mentioned that our oldest uncle's sister-in-law had just left for a month-long trip to Vietnam. It'll be her first time, I said. "But wasn't she born there?" the oldest '87 asked. Hehe. Yeah, I thought that part was implied. :P It'll be her first time back since we left, I corrected myself. Anyway, to bring the conversation back to pho, since it is a pho restaurant after all. My previous visit here was months ago with cousin Q and his two brothers. We ordered an appetizer plate of cha gio (Vietnamese egg rolls) for $4.95. The egg rolls were wrapped in banh trang (Vietnamese rice paper), which creates a nice papery crunch with chewy centers, as opposed to Chinese egg roll wrappers that's become more popular. I also liked the large leaves of tia to (Vietnamese purple perilla) for wrapping and dipping.
Pho 79 3
I ordered pho bo tai nam gan sach (Vietnamese beef noodle soup with beef slices, brisket, tendon, and tripe) for $4.95. Pho 79 adds quite a bit of spices into their broth for a nicely aromatic smell and flavor.
Pho 79 4
My cousin ordered pho xe lua (Vietnamese beef noodle soup, "train-sized") for $5.95. It's hard to tell from the photos but this bowl was quite a bit bigger than mine. Order if you have a big appetite. Or if you're a slow eater and want your broth to stay hot since a bigger bowl takes longer to cool down. That's my daddy's philosophy since that's what my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother) taught him.
Pho 79 5
And of course, the obligatory platter of bean sprouts, Thai basil, and limes for your pho.
Pho 79 6
The restaurant's menu is quite extensive with dry noodle dishes, rice dishes, and seven courses of beef. But as I always say, if a restaurant names itself after a dish, order that dish. Also, for San Gabriel Valley residents, since it's just down the street from Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant, it just begs for comparison. I think the broth is more flavorful at Pho 79. Plus, the restaurant is larger so there's usually no wait. Two very good reasons to go here instead. Other pho restaurant posts: Pho Filet Vietnamese Restaurant - South El Monte Pho Ha Vietnamese Restaurant - Pomona Pho Huynh Vietnamese Restaurant - South El Monte Pho Minh Vietnamese Restaurant - South El Monte Pho Pasteur - Rosemead Pho Super Bowl Vietnamese Cuisine - Alhambra Pho Thang Long Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) Pho Thanh Lich - Westminster (Little Saigon) Pho 79 Restaurant (The website is horribly outdated, listing this location's previous address. How outdated is it? The restaurant moved around the corner a decade ago. :P Correct address listed below.) 29 S. Garfield Ave. Alhambra, CA 91801 626-289-0239 ***** 1 year ago today, mango salsa.


  1. your blog is making me hungry haha.

  2. I never knew clear noodles were used in Vietnamese cooking/ noodle soup! Probably it's just because I never saw anyone eat it before- until today!
    As always great yummy photos. Like your cousin's blog too- all the fast food and other things are very interesting- but you have a lot more things to look at.

  3. WC,

    I agree with you about the broth at Pho 79. I have to say I like Pho 79 better than Golden Deli. (i think i've mentioned this to you before)

    And i'm gonna try the banh dai next time i go there. I usually get my pho there with banh canh, b/c i don't like the texture of the regular rice noodle. its good to have different option.

    Now I'm really craving pho...

  4. ??,
    I guess that means it's working. :)

    There's lots of different kinds of noodles. It's just everyone only knows pho.

    Yes, I remember you saying that. Another person in the "Golden Deli is overrated" camp. ;)

  5. So that's what the purple leaf is called! I'm partial to the banh trang wrapper myself...more fun texture...but whenever I make eggrolls I use the Chinese version. I dunno why, haha.

  6. Jeannie,
    Same here. I can't get banh trang to fry up golden like the restaurants so I stick to Chinese wrappers at home. But I love it when they do it the VNese way in the restaurants.

  7. hmm...i doubt they had a website a decade ago!

  8. Tania,
    Well, whenever they put up their website, they didn't bother to change the Alhambra location to the right address.

  9. I haven't been here in ages. I'll revisit this place and try the egg rolls. Shame the rice paper is not used as often anymore. I still make it like that, or am I getting too old-fashioned?

  10. Cocina Indochina,
    Yeah, that's why I like places that still do use the old-fashioned rice paper. Hard to find these days. Nothing wrong with doing things the traditional way.


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