Pho Ba Co - Irvine
I've no idea why Pho Bac in Irvine changed its name to Pho Ba Co. But you know what? I don't care. There might have been an ownership change or perhaps not. There are still other Pho Bac's around, namely Pho Bac Ky in Tustin and another in Irvine, on University.
But this one, which is the original that bred the others, has done steady business for years. It is arguably the most consistently popular pho joint in Irvine. The fact that I had to wait for a seat proves that it will continue to be.
Apart from the new logo, which depicts who I presume are the three female owners immortalized in cartoon form in a Charlie's Angels pose, the menu looks unchanged. There are still the endless permutations of pho (brisket, rare beef, tendon, etc.)--enough to keep busy the Irvinite who's too lazy to schlep it to Little Saigon.
As usual, I wasn't there for the pho. It was the special combo for me, which employed crinkly egg noodle instead of the white rice and a clear pork/chicken broth instead of their beef. Included in the soup, as it always has, is a fried wonton skin disc and a leaf of butter lettuce. The former is half submerged in the soup, which I save for last as long as I can, squirting Sriracha on it when I can't wait any longer.
The best part of the dish is actually the meatballs. Textured with bits of chewy tendon in it, they taste like they were homemade. Those haven't changed. What has changed is the way you can take your bowls. There used to be one size offered: large. If you're thinking of doing the dish, opt for it. The small is almost like an appetizer bowl of noodle soup and will not satiate. You will most certainly end up bumming off more food from whoever you are dining with.
After I finished the last drop, my chopsticks wandered over to my tablemate's rice plate, whereupon I noticed a few other things have changed. They're now serving yellow rice instead of just the plain. Also, the pho broth included for sipping isn't as lip-smackingly salty as it used to be.
By the end of it all, we were too full to order the Black Sea drink, a pandan and black jelly dessert slushie-thingy that we always make a point to order at the start of the meal but never get to when we finish. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Pho Ba Co
4250 Barranca Parkway
Irvine, CA 92604-1733
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