Kearny Mesa may be San Diego's best-known spot for Asian cuisine, but City Heights is no slouch when it comes to international cuisine-particularly Vietnamese. My girl and I were disappointed to find one of our favorites, Pho Huong, closed for remodeling. Luckily, we found another great place just across the street.
Unlike most Vietnamese restaurants, Que Huong doesn't serve pho, the ubiquitous Vietnamese beef noodle soup. Instead, Que Huong focuses on traditional Vietnamese food unfamiliar to most Westerners.
Some of the menu items sound amazing, such as fresh lobster and crab, served with tamarind sauce, or steamed in your choice of beer or coconut milk. Other intriguing items include roasted and buttered quail, pork ribs with squash soup, and a variety of frog's legs dishes. There's also boneless chicken feet salad; hot pot with cow's tail, eel or goat; pickled Chinese cabbage with pork intestines; and chilled pork stomach salad.
Not feeling brave-we had been seeking out pho, after all-we went with a Vietnamese crepe appetizer, broken rice with seven items and spicy Hue-style beef noodle soup. Everything was delicious and abundant.
Looking similar to an omelet, the Vietnamese crepe consists of a rich, eggy batter studded with slices of pork belly and green onions, folded around sliced onion, bean sprouts, black mushrooms and shrimp, served with a cup of nuoc-mam (fish sauce) enriched dipping sauce and a platter of lettuce and mint leaves for wrapping. With a somewhat sweet taste, the Vietnamese crepe is a mild and approachable appetizer that offers an interesting change of pace for those weary of spring rolls.
Broken rice is a dish I'd had before, but never with so many side dishes. Derived from milling medium- and long-grain rice, the tiny rice pieces are mounded into a cake, and surrounded by barbecued pork, fried tofu skin, shredded pork, steamed egg, grilled meatballs, ground shrimp on sugar cane, Vietnamese crab cake, egg roll and a green-leaf lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad-delicious, and a bargain at $8. The barbecue pork is sweet and smoky; so are the grilled meatballs and ground shrimp.
Fans of pho will appreciate Que Huong's aptly named spicy beef noodle soup. Hot and peppery, the rich, beefy broth is earthy, with a subtle taste suggesting yams. The thinly sliced rare beef is tender, and the noodles-heavier and thicker than the rice noodles in pho-are cooked al dente, giving the soup an amazing texture. The soup is served with a platter of add-ins, including tasty, thinly sliced banana flower leaves, adding further interesting texture to the soup.Que Huong is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to midnight. If you're looking for something appetizing and exotic, Que Huong is money well spent.