The Convoy District in San Diego, for the food lover, is one of the top destination meccas for Asian cuisine on the West Coast. From Chinese to Thai, Japanese to Vietnamese, there are countless options ranging from Mom and Pop locations to international chains showcasing their diverse styles and cuisines. Even hitting a marginal restaurant along this strip is the equivalent to the top Asian restaurant in most towns.
Anyway, a recent recommendation posted on a San Diego food and drink Facebook group led us to Mignon Pho + Seafood, surprising not for their pho, but for the diverse menu containing a wide variety of traditional Asian menu items executed with a modern twist. We decided to take a group, all family and friends, so that we could try more items. It turned out to be the perfect choice — while one or two people could easily enjoy themselves here, family style dining, replete with the reaching, hand fighting, finger biting and evening full of laughs is always a blast — made better by the enjoyment of a table full of great food.
Mignon Pho offers a full bar and plenty of local and imported craft beer options as well as a decent sake offering. Right off the bat, it was nice to see that they considered that the sake might want to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace and provided a way to keep the bottle cold during consumption — possibly also a place to dip our tongues into after trying a couple of the spicier dishes.
Raw selections of fresh Baja Kumiai oysters and scallops were ice cold as well and on happy hour pricing from 4:00 — 8:00 p.m. even on a Saturday evening. At $1 per oyster and $1.50 per scallop, it was hard not to make an entire meal of these. They were accompanied by a house mignonette that added a nice slightly sweet acidity, but certainly stood up well on their own. The half shell scallops particularly were welcome, not found on menus even in this area very frequently, They were tender with a sweet freshness to them.
When our server, Kevin, found out someone in our party loved the beauty of the shells and wanted to keep them to do some crafts, he offered to have them washed and bagged. For anyone wondering about the difference between good service and great service — that is one of them — going the extra step to ensure not only complete satisfaction, but a smile on the face of every diner — the type of smile that only comes from receiving that little something extra and unexpected..
The shrimp ceviche accompanied by small rice cakes were a marvel. Without any hint of the heavy acidity normally associated with a ceviche, these shrimp had a full, roundly sweet flavor which, combined with the rice cakes, presented like an Asian version of a street taco.
Flash fry Saigon chicken wings to a perfect crispiness, locking in the natural flavor and juices and you’re already starting off with a winner. These were also very lightly coated in a slightly spicy, almost sweet and sour sauce that was delicate on the palate, giving the hint of strong flavor, yet not interfering with the nicely spiced chicken.
There are a couple of truly great, go-to yakitori places within minutes of Mignon Pho. With that said, these skewers were some of the best in the area. The beef tongue on the left only looks dry because it is coated in a five spice powder while cooking, which absorbs some of the external juice, but creates a flavor crust extraordinaire. Biting into these morsels releases a wealth of flavor and tender texture that will make you wish you ordered ten of them…so much food, so little stomach room. The grilled filet mignon on the right, well, look at the picture. They tasted even better than they look having a bit of salt and pepper and maybe a light savory glaze applied.
Of the several meals we ate over the weekend, these Firecracker Prawns were hands down the best new things we tried. About 7” long per prawn, they were coated in a spicy rub and chili flakes, shell on, for grilling. By peeling them for eating, the potentially insane spiciness was much dissipated, but, by osmosis, the prawns still retained a medium spiciness that challenged even the spice lovers in our group without leaving anyone behind. Pro-tip: definitely squeeze the lime on these as it serves to enhance the flavor while balancing out the spiciness of the dish.
The lobster garlic noodles were on the special menu. Yes, they were special. Tons of garlic flavor with just a small amount of lobster meat, but then again, it’s only a dollar or so more than the non-lobster garlic. However, meat content aside, these noodles had a hint of lobster flavor in every bite and a great, deep garlic flavor that soaked right through the noodles.
This bone marrow dish was surprising to see on the menu and even more surprising in the presentation. Simply prepared, it was accompanied with a slightly dense, but airy bread, salt and pepper spices, lime and thinly sliced onions. All ingredients were able to be applied in quantities to satisfy each diner’s palate, creating a perfect bite or two for everyone at the table.
Several “boiled in the bag” options were available on the menu in ½ lb. and 1 lb. increments. There are choices of ingredients from several types of crabs and shellfish, sides of corn, potatoes and sausang and three or four different sauces with varying spiciness ranges. We chose to combine the clams, stone crab claws and shrimp in their “Jackpot” sauce with medium spiciness — we had no room left for sides at this point. This dish had a great Cajun flavor, easily manageable spice level and beautifully cooked, plump and juicy seafood. Bibs are included…
It’s kind of hard to go to a place called Mignon Pho and not try their Filet Mignon Pho. Pho is the quintessential Vietnamese soup, comprised of beef broth and a variety of vegetable and meat items that has pretty much swept the world by storm. This version had a hearty, deeply flavored broth, not overly complex, but with that soulful umami flavor that warms from the inside out and keeps you interested in every bite. We chose to have the filet slices served on the side and lightly dipped and cooked them in the broth as we ate so as not to have it get tough and chewy. The meat, after being dipped in the warm broth for about 30 seconds, took on the flavor of the broth and retained the lightest, melt in your mouth texture imaginable. It was pretty easy to see how it became the namesake for this place.
Mignon Pho has a large dining room, which is partitioned into sections. There are TV’s mounted on pretty much every wall — perhaps they have a heavy sports crowd that comes during non-dinner hours. Our party was far too busy enjoying the food to take any other than a cursory notice of the TV’s. Service was educated, helpful, cheerful and friendly. This is the type of place that, once tried, cannot be forgotten and will easily make it onto the regular rotation of most anyone that enjoy diverse and flavorful Asian cuisine. Cheers, my friends!
3860 Convoy St. Ste.116
San Diego, CA 92111