|No. 77, Spring rolls, $5.25|
Unfortunately, Pho 21 is no Golden Deli. For one, their fried spring rolls taste like the fried spring rolls you'll get at any Vietnamese restaurant, whereas Golden Deli's are the best spring rolls known to man (indisputable fact). Pho 21 uses chicken and Golden Deli uses pork, so that accounts for at least part of the difference. Spring rolls aside, Pho 21 is still above average overall.
|No. 46: Squid, "crab," shrimp, beef, and vegetable accompaniment to crispy chow mein, $6.95|
|No. 46: Crispy chow mein|
|Charbroiled beef with crushed rice|
The charbroiled beef tasted exactly as it should. What else can you say about charbroiled beef? It's never the most tender cut of meat, but the sweet marinade makes up for it. I would order that again.
Pho 21 does have a couple of advantages over Golden Deli besides location. First, they offer crushed rice. I love crushed rice doused with nuoc cham. I don't much care for regular rice, but the couscous-like texture of crushed rice really appeals to me. Second, Pho 21 sells soursop shakes, and I don't know where else to get those without driving to Orange County or going to an international grocery store, buying frozen soursop paste, and making a shake myself. Pho 21 also has a seriously extensive vegetarian menu, whereas many Vietnamese restaurants have zero vegetarian options.
I got my order to go, but had plenty of time to observe the restaurant's decor and atmosphere while I waited. It's about like any other Vietnamese restaurant--casual, kind of cheap and not totally clean, with a wall-mounted TV in one corner and tons of condiments on the table. It would be an acceptable place to dine for a casual lunch, but I wouldn't eat there on date night. My food was ready in a perfectly reasonable amount of time, but not in the lightning-speed time typical of other Vietnamese restaurants. The online menu makes the restaurant seem like it will be nicer than it actually is.
Parking is a little annoying, but typical for this part of town. You have to park in a small space in the alley behind the restaurant where you think there's a 50% chance of your car getting dinged or smashed into, then walk around the corner to enter from the front and get your food. The area seemed a tad sketchy to me, but that's Canoga Park for you. I now have a greater appreciation for India's Sweets and Spices' policy of letting customers enter through the back door.
All in all, Pho 21 has not won a special place in my heart as my new favorite Vietnamese restaurant. That being said, if I were in the Canoga Park area, I would go back and try some different dishes--particularly the Japanese curry, which is hard to find.
Pho 2121525 Sherman Way
Canoga Park, CA 91303
Hours: Mon, Wed-Sun 10 am - 9 pm
Pho 21 website
Pho 21 menu