San Tung disappoints, Saigon Pho II delights (at least in the beef department)
CHEAP EATS I can't tell you how many times in my life I have been sitting in Java Supreme dunking a biscotti and discussing literature and pork with Earl Butter, and then I have to use the bathroom so I go home.
Yeah, well turnabout is fair play, according to Skeeter Willis and others. Some L.A. friends of Hedgehog were here, and wanted to bum around the Mission with us. One thing we did was I took them to meet Stoplight. But I don't exactly live in my apartment anymore. We were hoping Stoplight would be out back outside (where he mostly is), and accepting visitors (which he mostly isn't). As a result, we wound up waiting around in my building's birdseed covered courtyard, discussing literature and pork, until I had to use the bathroom so we went to Java Supreme.
In truth, this happened twice, and both times I got coffee, because even though the Java people know me, and know that I've been dipping my biscotti into their coffee for 20 years, without hardly ever using the facilities ... still, I like to set a good example: the restroom is for paying customers only.
So I kept drinking, to earn my pee, and then kept needing to pee on account of all the coffee I was drinking. This was a slippery slope, destined to leave me penniless and friendless, pretty much living on the toilet and pissing off basically everyone.
Except that, luckily, Hedgehog's L.A. friends needed to be getting on back to L.A., and we had offered to drive them as far as Colma, where their car was parked. After dinner.
They wanted Chinese, but Mission Chinese doesn't open for dinner until 5, and it's a what, a six hour drive to L.A.? Or longer — at the end of a holiday weekend.
None of us had had lunch. We couldn't wait. We went to San Tung, which I like anyway better than Mission Chinese. It was only 4:30. There was a parking space right in front. It was surreal: For the first time ever, we not only sat right down but had a choice of tables.
Then came one of the what-the-fuckest things that ever happened to me in a restaurant: nothing. It took them 20 minutes to find the time to take our order. By which time the place did get crowded. Another party of four sat at the other end of our table, ordered after us, and were served before. Which would be one thing. But. A half hour before??? I'm not exaggerating. And we'd ordered many of the same dishes!
Not only did we have to watch them smugly munching their chicken wings while our end of the table was dying of malnutrition, they were boxing up their leftovers, divvying up the bill, and putting on their coats before half of our dishes were even served. To get any of them at all, we had had to go knock on the kitchen door. Figuratively speaking.
That's crap, and so is San Tung. Henceforth. In my opinion.
My new favorite restaurant is Pho Saigon II, in Richmond at the Pacific East Mall. I went there on the day after Thanksgiving, on Black Friday, to a mall! But I went there for a massage, and to eat pho, so, no, I have not lost my mind completely.
It's that Asian mall, you know, with 99 Ranch, which I love. Well, there's a place in there, upstairs, where you can get an hour-long massage for $20. Crawdad told me about it. The Jungle told her.
Now I'm telling you. And:
Pho Saigon II, for all its fluorescence and atmospherelessness, has good, cheap pho. I would think this would go without saying, but, get the beef. Hedgehog, who prefers pho ga, or chicken noodle soup, was sorely disappointed in hers. And I second her disappointment. The broth was lame and the chicken very dry.
The rare steak in my soup was perfect and pink, and the noodles were good, and the broth ... just so.
After lunch, come to think of it, we did do a little shopping. We bought three kinds of rice noodles at 99 Ranch. Oh, and I also stepped into one of those little doodad stores and bought a cute little eraser for Hedgehog. I was their only customer. Pepper spray did not play a role.
PHO SAIGON II
Sun.-Thu.: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
3288 Pierce St., Suite A116, Richmond