Lots of Philippino and Japanese in South Bay. Their veggies are better than Sprouts! Great mushroom and eggplant selections. They even have lumpfish caviar that Trader Joe’s doesn’t stock any longer. It’s a real resource for South Bay!
Saigon 5 at 99 Ranch Balboa now serves what I think is very respectable pho. It’s changed; at least I believe so. The broth is now subtle and better tasting. The sprouts and basil are now provided in a small bowl on the side. Very nice improvements. And the pho noodles themselves are nicely cooked.
I recently had their pho with meatballs and it was very satisfying. Recommended.
I really like this little spot. The pho, bun, and bahn mi are all quite good.
And now I see there’s going to be yet another Asian market opening in the same general area in Kearny Mesa /South Clairemont. An H-Mart is taking the spot occupied for many years by a large former sporting goods store at Balboa and 805.
One has to wonder how many Asian grocery stores there can be in the same general area before “market” (so to speak) saturation is reached.
Hey, Asian market chains. We could use an Asian market in north county.
Haha I know @Encinitan. It’s like the 56 is some magical Rubicon that Asian markets can’t cross despite plenty of API folks (and non API folks who like to shop for API items) north of the 56
I mean apparently Irvine has enough to support 2 99Ranches, an H Mart, a Zion, and a Mitsuwa…I know the concentration and demographics are different but apparently it can be done!
Sounds like it can indeed be done, from what you’ve said.
In SD, the Balboa/Convoy area has become an Asian food district; a logical parallel.
The menu at Saigon 5 in 99 Ranch keeps changing, and I’ve recently had a soup (four times) called Fujian noodles. It comes with a crispy thin fried biscuit, on top of which there is a whole shrimp (including tail, feet, and eyeballs), that I really like. Except for the eyeballs, which I can’t deal with.
The soup itself is very different from what one normally gets at small pho places. There are two kinds of noodles in it: fat egg noodles and thin rice noodles. Very tasty broth, but I like to add a splash of the red vinegar that’s at the counter before eating. (And some jalapeno slices.)
Who knows what this little hidden spot will offer tomorrow. All I know is that the menu has changed at least three or four times.
These days, though, they’ve stopped giving you an Asian spoon! Awful. Shame on them.
So I bought 50 disposable plastic Asian spoons from Amazon and now carry one with me when I go to 99 Ranch on Balboa. You just can’t eat Vietnamese or other Asian soup in a big bowl with a tiny, straight spoon.
Replacing the spot where the (yawn) Mr. A’s Café was located in 99 Ranch, there’s now “ChaCha Tea Spot”.
Don’t let the name fool you.
In addition to many really good Chinese tea drinks, they have a full menu of Chinese food options, many of which are rare in this kind of place.
Yeah, ok, my companion and I shared a simple Orange Peel Beef dish with rice for lunch. That’s what she wanted, and the servings are big enough for two. We asked for it to be made spicy, and they obliged. They also have a very good house-made chili paste you can get at the counter.
Very nice. We agreed we’d return.
But the thing is that they also have offerings like Sichuan Broiled Fish, Sautéed Cumin Lamb, Seafood Bean Curd Soup, Fried Rock Cod Filet, and Preserved Egg with Pork Poridge. Some of which I’ve never had anywhere.
They also offer eight XLB for $9. I can’t wait to try. Actually, I’m very interested in sampling the whole menu.
Truth be told, I’ve been going to 99 Ranch on Balboa a lot for quick meals, as well as other places close by recently. My companion’s cancer treatment schedules keep changing.
I think that ChaCha Tea Spot is a nice addition to the Balboa 99 Ranch.
Nice to see you found it, they’re very nice people and the food is quite good. The Szechuan items are especially good although they’ve fooled with the names to anglicize things - ex. Tofu with Pork is actually Mapo Tofu. My wife had the Rock Cod in Black Bean Sauce which she enjoyed and it was loaded with fish. I had the Szechuan Boiled Fish and really enjoyed it, rustic and had a nice Mala component. They don’t seem to tame the heat for non-Asians which so many places do. Between the Fried Chicken joint, the Shanxxi noodle joint and now the Cha Cha there’s good reason to save a buck and get some pretty good food.
With ChaCha open, IMO all four of the food-court restaurants at 99 Ranch (Balboa) are now pretty good; recommendable. I haven’t been to the Shan Xi Magic Kitchen on Convoy for some time, and I read a comment (can’t recall where or by whom), that quality was waning there. But in my experience their “outpost” on Balboa is still consistently pleasing, whatever I order. Same goes for the Vietnamese place, Saigon 5. And the fried flounder at Krispy Krunchy Chicken is really worth trying if you’ve never had it. Huge pieces of very nicely prepared, very tasty fish for just $3 each.
Nice photo (of the Rock Cod / Black Bean dish?), Dekape.
Just as an aside, I find it curious that ChaCha spells Szechuan as “Sichuan” (which is why I spelled it that way in my post).
Lol, that’s a pic of the Boiled Fish. Yes, my wife likes to order occasionally from the Viet place. We order to-go from the Krunchy Chicken and, you’re very right, the flounder is fantastic. I have a really hard time bypassing the noodles at Shan Xi, it’s such a satisfying dish. Consistency is a bit of a problem at Shan Xi definitely, but there are many more hits than misses. And, Sichuan is a more contemporary spelling versus Szechuan, I just get sort of stuck in my ways and so use the older version.
I guess I need new glasses…
Yeah, it clearly isn’t a whole filet, but I was thinking it was made from a filet.
That’s my excuse and I’m standing by it.
Out of curiosity, I returned to ChaCha and ordered the Sichuan Boiled Fish, which is essentially chunks of fish and vegetables in a “broth” of scalding hot chili oil, with tons of chopped dried red chilies. It took a while before it cooled down to the point that I could eat it without scalding my tongue. It comes with a side of rice, which I added to the soup, to cut the oil. As Deckape said, this is hardly a toned-down dish, in terms of the picante level. I calibrate my personal hotness scale to align with that at Sab-E-Lee, and on that basis this bowl is a solid 9. Parenthetically, I’ll comment that a 10 is as hot as I can eat and still enjoy the food, and at that level I sometimes get borderline enchilado (as Mexicans would say, according to my chilanga companion.) So a 9 is closing in on that. A very tasty and filling bowl, but be forewarned.
You’re not supposed to eat the “soup”
Now you tell me. Well, but I did, and I liked it. The woman at the counter came over to see if I was enjoying it, and offered to give me more rice, which I declined. She didn’t say or suggest anything about not eating everything that was in the bowl. There was a lot of the “broth” in there, and it probably would have been better (less oily) with extra rice. Next time. I can’t see just leaving it, though.
I’m with you. Just because Chinese people don’t eat the delicious “soup” doesn’t mean we can’t. I’ve taken home leftovers and mixed with chicken stock to make a great broth, sometimes with noodles, sometimes plain.
So, my wife and I stopped by to eat at Saigon 5 two nights ago. My pho was virtually inedible because of the overpowering use of chinese five spice. It’s supposed to be a component but this version was beyond any sense of balance. I tried to kill the clovish bomb with chili sauce and lime but it just made for a confused mess. Last time I try Saigon 5 except for the Banh Mi which has been reliably good in the past. Yow!
I’ve had pho at Saigon 5 three times since it opened. The first time was in Oct '16 and I thought it was strange – not what I’d expected at all – but edible.
My second and third experiences are described in a January '18 post.. Then, I thought it was decent and more pho-like.
Sorry to hear that the recipe has changed again, and for the worse. I don’t go there for pho though; there are places where it’s much better than at Saigon 5. I haven’t had pho there since January.
The menu keeps evolving here, and I think also the recipes. The first thing I had when I went there, just after opening, was bahn mi thit nguoi (pork belly), and I loved it. By the second time I went it was off the menu. More recently (May of this year) they introduced Fujian noodles, which I like a lot – with a little red vinegar added.
I think the bun thit nuong here is quite good, and also their bahn mi.