Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Take-Out Review: Drive-Thru Pho at Banh Mi Che Cali

Did you know that there’s a place in Little Saigon where you can get pho from a drive-thru?

For years I was aware that Banh Mi Che Cali Restaurant—which is located next door to the smaller “Taco Bell” Banh Mi Che Cali on Brookhurst— has a drive-thru window. But for the longest time, I ignored it because before dining inside a restaurant became fraught with health risks, ordering pho from your car made as much sense as getting Din Tai Fung’s juicy pork dumplings as take-out—it’s possible but inadvisable.

Then came the pandemic, and suddenly its drive-thru window became a lifeline with a full-on Vietnamese menu on the other end.

I could have all my Vietnamese restaurant favorites without stepping into one.

Even better: these were one of the cheapest prices in town. $7.50 bought me a generous portion of rice topped with grilled pork chop, Vietnamese egg cake, shredded pork skin, a side salad, pickles and that ambrosial fish sauce to dribble on everything. And one order was enough to feed two.

The bun—a refreshingly light noodle salad strewn with pieces of sweetly marinated Vietnamese BBQ pork, grilled shrimp and an egg roll wrapped in rice paper—was just as cheap and just as filling.

But the most impressive dish of all was the pho dac biet, which had more bells and whistles than a fully-loaded Tesla.

For the protein, there’s the requisite thinly sliced raw filet mignon, but also enough brisket to fill a sandwich, two matchbox squares of aspic, beef meatballs, and crunchy tripe.

At home, when I assembled the components together, I discovered that there’s more than enough to fill two standard IKEA bowls.

But most importantly, when I ate it, I realized it tasted just as good as the last bowl of pho I slurped inside a restaurant pre-COVID.

Now as far as doing Din Tai Fung’s juicy pork dumplings as take-out? I also did that during the lockdown and I can report that it’s still inadvisable.

Banh Mi Che Cali
15553 Brookhurst St.
Westminster, CA 92683