It’s time for another Food Fight, pitting two restaurants head-to-head with a single dish to see which one makes it better. This time, it’s chicken pho, a fight that appeared in my column in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald.
Last week, I found myself dining at two of the Peninsula’s most popular Vietnamese hotspots. But which one makes a better bowl of chicken pho?
Round 1: Chopstix
Chopstix has a pretty tight lock on the market for cheap eats in Monterey. At $5.50, their noodle soups are one of the best bargains in the city.
The chicken pho is very fragrant, with aromatic spices. The addition of rotisserie chicken is nice — the chicken skin added extra depth of flavor, enough so that I was willing to overlook my suspicions that it was pre-cooked.
My only complaint? Tonight, the noodles were too al dente and they clumped together too much, making it difficult to extricate a small spoonful.
Chopstix is at 1244 Munras Ave. in Monterey. 372-2622. www.chopstixboba.com.
Round 2: Noodle Bar
Noodle Bar’s little shop in Seaside always has a wait, spurring the opening of a second shop in Marina about two years ago now. The Marina location is now likewise abuzz with customers queuing up for a table or takeaway.
The chicken pho at Noodle Bar was more savory than at Chopstix — the broth had a clean taste without any spices to distract from the chicken.
The noodles were cooked perfectly — they were tender without being gummy. I slurped up spoonful after spoonful without any concern for appearances as I no doubt splattered broth all over myself.
The thin slices of chicken are the perfect accent for this simple soup.
Noodle Bar Restaurant is located at 215 Reservation Road, Suite E, in Marina. 384-6225. www.yelp.com/biz/noodle-bar-restaurant-marina.
This was a really tough call to make. It came down to personal preferences: a fragrant pho at Chopstix or the clean classic at Noodle Bar.
The winner — by a very slight edge — was Noodle Bar.