One of my oldest and dearest friends since my high school days introduced me to Pho Hiep & Grill Chateau, a Vietnamese restaurant in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista. Semo is a counselor at nearby Bonita Vista Jr. High School and upon my arrival from L.A. (an almost 2.5 hour trip by car), it was almost 2pm and neither one of us had eaten yet so we were both hungry. He suggested Pho Hiep and off we went.
A short time later, we arrived at Pho Hiep off of Eastlake Parkway. Its picturesque location in the middle of a quiet suburban neighborhood was perfect for a late afternoon lunch. The restaurant is located in an open mall, complete with water fountains and plenty of parking. I noted the open feel of the restaurant, the full bar to the right when you walked in, the ambiance and friendly staff. We sat down and I began to study their menu. In addition to appetizers such as egg/spring rolls and crepes, they also had a wide variety of vermicelli noodle entrees as well as rice entrees, and pho. The noodle entrees are served with vermicelli rice noodles, shredded lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, bean sprouts, mint herbs, pickled carrots and daikon, roasted peanuts and a side of vinaigrette fish sauce (nuoc mam). Rice entrees are served with steamed broken rice, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickled carrots and daikon as well as the side of vinaigrette fish sauce and soup.
Semo ordered the Grilled Shrimps (Bun Tom Nuong). The shrimp is marinated in a house sauce and grilled over an open flame:
I opted for the Grilled Beef and Shrimp Combo (did I mention that I was hungry???). Tender slices of marinated rib-eye beef and shrimps make up this dish:
Since I’m not familiar with Vietnamese dishes, I asked Semo how best to enjoy this dish. He told me to “dress” the dish with the vinaigrette fish sauce, toss everything together and enjoy. I was a bit hesitant at first because I didn’t know how fishy the vinaigrette would be (being Filipino, I guess the only thing close to this would be patis, but I’ve never had that either; all I know that it’s extremely fishy in smell and salty) but I trusted my friend so I went for it. I poured the vinaigrette over everything and starting tossing.
Wow, I love this dish. The noodles were cooked perfectly, the beef and shrimp had that smoky grilled flavor and the veggies–crisp and fresh. I love the textures (the succulence of the shrimp, the tenderness of the beef, the crunch of the veggies) and everything married perfectly in my mouth.
This dish looks like something that I can prepare at home, especially during the summer. It’s healthy, light and filling. If anyone knows where I can purchase the vinaigrette fish sauce (or if you have a recipe to share, please let me know).
PHO HIEP & GRILL CHATEAU
872 Eastlake Parkway, Suite 310
Chula Vista, CA 91914