When we heard a new Vietnamese restaurant was opening in Kearny Mesa, we immediately thought to ourselves: “okay another pho place.” Boy were we wrong. They don’t call themselves Char House for nothing. I should note they also own Pho 5th Avenue in Hillcrest and look to be trying something new here with Char House.
I’ve never been to Vietnam (I hope to one day!) so I can’t reach into my bag of street food memories and reflect. But according to Tee, the owner, these are all common in Vietnam. He was very proud to be serving these and I can’t say I’ve seen any other restaurant serve the same dishes.
He offered to bring out a Vietnamese coffee. I did not want to offend him by saying no. So I gladly accepted and slurped away realizing I could very well start my addiction to coffee any day now. It wasn’t the strongest nor was it the weakest of coffee’s. Perfect for me.
Although his daughter Clari intrigued us when describing the butter and garlic wings, Tee ended up bringing the fish sauce ones. I’m sure both were good options.
While these weren’t as crispy as I would have hoped, and maybe a little too sweet for my taste, they still were very tasty. The fish sauce was there, but not powerful enough to force a gag reflex for the uninitiated. The skin had a candied chewy texture that sticks to your teeth a bit.
Michael was drawn to this dish from the start. Again, I don’t seem to complain with these choices thus far. It was a good day to eat.
I had no idea what a miniature pancake was going to look like. I imagined a smaller Korean seafood pancake with shrimp and green onions mixed into the batter. As you can see, I was wrong. It’s almost like a tiny pancake bowl with goodies on top.
We wrapped them with lettuce and dipped into our fish sauce. Yummy. I could faintly taste the coconut and the lettuce and carrot gave it a nice crunchy texture to compliment the somewhat soft pancake.
This is where the grilled magic happens.
Tee wanted us to try some skewers and he brought us two plates full of em. I did notice him cooking up a storm and I failed to grab an action shot of it. These two plates of skewers were what smelled so good from the open kitchen.
Clari spoke of this mysterious secret sauce that Tee put together for the skewers. I tried to find out his recipe but he wouldn’t budge. I liked both sauces but the green one had me coming back. It had an ever so slight kick with a stronger tanginess which I love.
As far as the skewers go, we were very pleased. The meat had a nice char to them and were moist. The pork belly was a little hard to eat without getting your face messy. I will say that did not stop me however. My favorites were probably the pork, filet mignon, and chicken.
A faint sizzle turned into a party on our table in an instant. Another favorite of the evening was the Shaking Beef. This kind of reminded me of cubed beef dishes at Tasty Garden or Green Island up in LA. I believe they use filet mignon here. The flavor of the beef stood out and caused me to savor and chew each piece a little bit longer than I might otherwise. It wasn’t as tender as other filet mignon dishes I’ve had in the past, but the sauce was quite good.
I tried to redeem myself later by grabbing a picture of him in action since I failed to do so earlier. That one skewer looks so lonely. Who orders only one skewer!? Maybe people do that more often than I think. I get too distracted with wanting to try everything and that causes more food to get ordered than I can eat more often than not.
Our experience was a great one not just because we got to stuff our bellies with good food, but in large part to our meeting Tee and Clari. It was a pleasure getting to know them and hearing their stories. They couldn’t be any nicer and you could tell put a lot of hard work into their business. Hope you all get to meet them and try their food one day!
Disclaimer: We were invited to dine here free of charge, but the opinions stated are our own.