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What the Pho

The Pho Phenomona
The Pho PhenomonaKate Mulligan

Pho noodle restaurants in Monterey

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I didn't get a press pass to the latest elite eats event in Pebble Beach, so I took a mini-tour of the abundant Noodle houses from Monterey to Marina. You know, the mom and pop noodle and boba shops that sell an assortment of Vietnamese fare: noodles, curries, lemon chicken, and boba-pearl teas.

If you have not noticed, pho makers are staking a claim here in Monterey on the wallets of those hungry to get out of the house for a meal that isn't from KFC and has a price range fitting the 99%-ers.

However, several restaurants I rated don't have what it takes to satisfy. My tastebuds experienced the gamut on this excursion: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Here are a few I have visited over the last 6 months:

Chopsticks is a franchise, but individual shops vary in quality - I did not care for the broth nor the service at the Monterey Chopstix. Seaside's Chopstix is known to have the best of the boba teas, and the soups are a better quality... but there is a lot of wait time involved, not to mention mishandled orders, so cool your jets when you sit down, and double check your order. It will be worth it!

The Orient has boba teas, sake, and a very good noodle soup. The prices are higher (you can also get Mu Shu), but their broth has a very good reputation. I was sitting at a very well-to-do eatery on Del Monte in Monterey, and was told by a restaurant fanatic that The Orient had the freshest, cleanest broth of any in the county, rivaled only by The Noodle Bar in Marina, which is now my all time favorite.

Right down the street from Chopsticks is the tiniest eatery in the Seaside: The Noodle Bar, 1944 Fremont Blvd, which sports a 4 star rating on Yelp - and very modest, in that there is only seating for about 12 at a counter unless you take out. There are no tables and often a line forms right behind as you belly up for your meal. The fare is cheaper, and I would give it a higher rating food-wise as well as price-wise. It was very quaint and showed tons of character.

The Marina Noodle Bar Restaurant (related to Seaside) was my all time favorite. The ultimate fragrant, clear broth, crispest of bean sprouts, fresh-picked Thai basil, cilantro and Jalapeno garnish - I literally swooned over my meal. They even accommodate menu alterations. Cash-only is something you should note, though they do have an ATM if you need.

Too bad neither places sell alcohol, as a nice hot sake would go well with these meals.

Pho King, on Fremont has a 92% rating on UrbanSpoon, but we absolutely do not' agree (perhaps the chef was off that Sunday). The broth was cloudy, the sliced chicken was crumbly dry, and the noodles seemed overcooked, with too much fish sauce thrown into the mix. A yellow, vegetable curry dish I ordered had a pasty, gooey consistency with hardly any curry flavor. The veggies were definitely not fresh. In fact, I just noted that the link on Yelp for recommendations is innacurate, so don't go by that link, people are perhaps rating the wrong establishment!

Taste of Vietnam a few blocks down from The Noodle Bar took up the slack from The Saigon. The ambiance there is tasteful, with a soothing red interior and high ceilings - serving wine and beer, but no sake for some reason. (This may have changed by now.) I had a few meals here that rated well, but the prices were higher, thanks to the ambiance I guess.

I will keep you posted on these as I am now addicted to this healthier, fast(er), and cheaper, artful eating experience - please comment so we can keep a watchful eye on these restaurants as they develop over time. Perhaps someday I will share my own home made recipe contact me for questions and curiosity!

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