Shrimp Pho the Soul — Daily Pho

Flavorful broth in a sea of noodles.

You’re sick and can’t tell if you’re hungry or still queasy.

Mild lunch is the best call, something like broth. A Yelp check on what’s by El Camino College shows several Vietnamese pho restaurants offering bowls of broth, rice noodles, herbs and a variety of meats.

A catchy named place named What Pho? is unfortunately closed on a Monday, but the next highest-rated Vietnamese soup joint is Daily Pho, just south of Marine Avenue on Western, a short drive from the college.

You arrive to a strip mall of Asian restaurants. The Daily Pho menu is handed to you by a friendly. elderly Asian man in a uniform that would probably double for work clothes in an auto garage (it’s clean, though). The sound of Mexican music and CNN in the background and a decor that looks like an Asian diner and a boba drink bar eloped are the opening impressions.

IMG_0208
Quite quaint.

It’s pleasing amusement. And so is the pho, which comes in a variety of ways with many meats. Rare steak, brisket, tripe, meatballs, chicken, squid, ox tail and more.

But today, the pho is kept simple: shrimp.

A few minutes later, a half dozen big, fat shrimp arrive in a giant bowl, and they’ve been thrown into a kelp forest of noodles with some cilantro, onions and other greens, along with a platter of basil, bean sprouts and chilies on the side.

IMG_0203
And this is the small bowl.
IMG_0204
For a touch more crunch or spicy flair.

A ladle will easily scoop the broth and diced greens. Chopsticks, however, are the only way to work with the mass of noodles, which dam up more of the succulent broth and the occasional shrimp that has soaked the flavors in.

IMG_0207
The noodles are thick enough to double as wiring for a computer lab.

The broth hits the spot, the shrimps are plump and the noodles are … well,  chewy and plentiful. What more could you ask for under $10 with a Thai iced tea with whipped cream on top?

Well, there are rice dishes, banh mi, boba drinks and other things to consider. But that’s for another time.

IMG_0209

Pho Daily is located at 15126 S. Western Ave. in Gardena and is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Wi-Fi is available on the premises; ask for the password. Phone: (310) 630-4915. A menu can be found on its Yelp page: https://www.yelp.com/biz/pho-daily-gardena.

Falafel Face Off: Chicken Maison vs. Chicken Chick

Two sandwiches enter, one man eats.

Falafel.

For those who don’t know the difference between a falafel and a loofah, the former is a fried ball of chickpeas and fava beans. A loofah is a bath sponge, but that’s not important right now.

They — falafels, not loofahs — can be served on their own, as a topping in salads and as the main ingredient in sandwiches.

Two restaurants within walking distance of the college grounds offer falafel sandwiches for under $7: Chicken Maison and Chicken Chick.

DSCN1073
Chicken Maison’s falafel sandwich is served in a pita bread. Didn’t ask if onions are normally placed like cute fez hats on falafels upon serving.

Chicken Maison

Chicken Maison, just across the street from the campus on Crenshaw Boulevard in the strip mall near the McDonald’s, won the coin toss to start first.

No, actually it won first try on mentioning it had pickled turnips in the sandwich. And tomatoes and parsley and onions.

DSCN1076
Pickled turnips sound like precious hors d’oeuvres in Bilbo Baggins’ kitchen cabinet.

Served on a giant flatbread, the sandwich looks like a giant burrito at first glance in its wrapping. The three falafel balls were large, a bit on the crumbly side, but had a good flavor. The turnips were just the right kind of bitter to accent the sandwich.

The sandwich normally comes drizzled with tahini sauce — sesame seed paste mixed with water, garlic and lemon juice — for those who like that sort of thing.

At a listed price of $6.75, it’s well within a student’s budget. Most of Chicken Maison’s fare is around $10.

IMG_0114
Bag it in a baguette — smaller falafel and sandwiches at Chicken Chick, but the flavor makes up for it. The baguette is nice and fresh, too.

Chicken Chick

A Persian restaurant just southeast of the campus across Crenshaw Boulevard, Chicken Chick offers its sandwich in a different way — in a toasted baguette.

Most places serve this sandwich with pita bread, but this baguette works — it’s fresh and has a good flavor, along with the tomatoes, parsley and crisp onions (word of advice: bring a breath mint or chewing gum after eating). Pita bread is also served as a side.

The four falafels are smaller but not as flaky as the ones at Chicken Maison. They had a more robust flavor as well.

IMG_0115
Tahini sauce on the side, please.

Tahini sauce is also served on the sandwich. It tends to distract from the flavor of the sandwich. Its sour taste doesn’t go as well as pickled turnips offered by Chicken Maison.

Chicken Chick’s atmosphere is a lot less hectic than Chicken Maison’s and more comfortable. The falafel sandwich is just a few cents more at $6.99, but do take note the price of the other fare is a bit steeper here than at Chicken Maison.

Final Verdict

While Chicken Maison offers pickled turnips and bigger falafel, the sharp flavors and fresh baguette Chicken Chick serves gives the latter a slight edge. They’re both very good sandwiches, and you can’t go wrong with choosing one or the other.

IMG_0116

Chicken Maison is located at 15900 Crenshaw Blvd. in Gardena and is open 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday thru Saturday and closed on Sundays. Phone: (310) 327-737. Website: http://www.chickenmaison.com.

Chicken Chick is located at 16300 Crenshaw Blvd. in Torrance and is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. Phone: (424) 396-3437 or (424) 396-3438. Its menu can be found on Yelp.com.