Kevin’s Noodle House, Concord CA
Wish we had been here before tonight. From the outside the Concord location of Pho Huynh Hiep, or Kevin’s Noodle House, it looks very unassuming and humble. Once inside, seeing the multitude of people enjoying pho and other Vietnamese dishes, we knew we had found something special.
The sinh to dac biet, or special shakes, were surprising. Flavors like durian, avocado, and guyabano make this assortment unique. Zach tried coconut and it was phenomenal – August does not like coconut, but she had a sip and fell in love! The coconut flavor is there, but very mild, with strong vanilla cream to balance it. August had a Thai iced tea (tra thai tran chau), and when Zach tried it, he said it was one of the best he had sampled.
This is a noodle house, so how could we not try the pho? Neither of us are fans of tripe, literal or figurative. We chose the pho with thin slices of steak. The steak was cooked medium, tender, and plentiful. The noodles were firm but giving, and they soaked up the flavor of the rich broth like a sponge. The broth itself was delicious with mild notes of Thai basil, adding the cilantro contributed extra freshness, and the bean sprouts gave it some texture.
We each got an entree, and with it we got soup and a sweet and sour sauce for rice and vermicelli. The soup was really a broth, but despite being nearly clear, it was thick with flavors of onion and chicken. We didn’t use the sweet and sour sauce, because we liked the entrees as they were when they were served.
August loves Asian vermicelli, so she opted for a bowl with grilled chicken, lettuce, carrots, green onions, peanuts, and a fried egg roll. Mixed all around with a dribble of sriracha sauce, this is something she could get again and again. The chicken was super juicy and marinated well, all the vegetables were fresh, and the vermicelli was cooked just right.
Zach ordered a rice plate with a pork chop, shrimp cake, and fried egg. The sticky rice was a flavorful bed under the meats and vegetables, absorbing the pork drippings and the pickled juices of some vegetables; some were pickled, some were fresh, providing great contrasts within that food group. The pork chop was “awesome,” with delicious sear marks that caramelized the outside of the meat due to the sweet marinade. The chop was tender and easy to eat. The shrimp cake, “oh wow,” was kind of like a crispy shrimp fritter, with an egg-based batter surrounding a well-seasoned, savory shrimp patty. The egg, when broken and running over the rice, added a deeper richness to the dish.
What started as a father’s vision of serving authentic Vietnamese cuisine in a welcoming environment, has turned into five locations throughout the Bay Area (Daly City, Oakland, Walnut Creek, San Francisco, and Concord). We’re looking forward to our next visit, in any one of those cities.