Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel
OB Noodle House 2218 Cable St.Ocean Beach619-450-6868
There are people you meet whose experiences make you feel instantly lazy, lucky and spoiled. Steven Yeng, co-owner of OB Noodle House, is one. Born in Cambodia to Chinese parents, his family suffered under the Khmer Rouge, who stripped them of their home and sent them to refugee camps. Young Steven contracted polio, and the family struggled to find medical care, which, then, was primitive at best.
Eventually, they managed to make their way to San Diego, where they crowded into a tiny living space in Ocean Beach and saved up to open a donut shop, whose point-and-pick style of service was the easiest to navigate with their shaky English. In its two decades, O.B. Donuts has become a fixture of the tight-knit beach community.
In late spring of 2008, Steven and his brother Kyle, who both grew up working in the donut shop, opened a noodle house that was an instant hit in the neighborhood, which lacks Asian options. Friends from their years at locals schools flooded in, and in early 2009, they were able to remodel and expand the restaurant into the space next door, adding booths for groups and a large, stylish bar. They're still busy noon and night and sometimes even during late afternoon.
Steven has fun playing host at his bar, mixing cocktails and infusing sake with fresh produce, like cantaloupe and habanero chilies. He's also all about craft beer, determined to offer quality brews at beach-beer-bar prices; indeed, none of the 14 taps show any of the cheapo macro stuff. OB Noodle offers a monthly $1 beer special, currently local Firehouse American Pale Ale, during a Monday-through-Friday (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) happy hour, when there's also a 99-cent sake deal, though there's a selection of 100 other sake varieties, available in bottles or tasting flights.
Kyle, a self-taught chef, oversees the kitchen. The menu's influenced by their mom's home cooking, so Kyle is particular about making his food as from-scratch as he can. For his pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, Kyle makes a homemade broth from oxtail and beef bones, which simmers at least eight to 10 hours with a mix of vegetables and spices. It won't replace the favorite pho spots on my rotation (Pho Hoa Hiep in Linda Vista and Mira Mesa's Lucky Pho)—the stock is little sweet for me, and lacks a few of the garnishes that are usually served on the side—but it's still tasty and comforting.
The vegetarian options are plentiful; the pho, as well as other noodles, including pan-fried crispy egg noodles and soft rice noodles (called chow fun), can be stir-fried with tofu and vegetables. Fresh spring rolls—also known as summer, or salad, rolls—wrap a mix of protein, rice noodles, fresh veggies and herbs in supple rice paper, with a sweet sauce for dipping, here a combo of peanut and Chinese hoisin sauce. The vegetarian version of these chilled Vietnamese snacks uses tofu, and though the menu lists the traditional inclusion of fresh mint, the ones we had substituted Thai basil.
Because cocktails and beer are at the focus here, Asian-inspired bar snacks dominate the appetizer menu. Best are the juicy and savory chicken wings, seasoned with fresh garlic and garlic powder and fried until crisp without a coating or batter, and chicken satay—pieces of tender thigh meat in a lemongrass marinade that are skewered, grilled and served with a good carrot and cabbage slaw.
Though the brothers have been asked to expand their concept to other neighborhoods, for now they want to serve the community that welcomed and supported them.
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