Hardcore, serious Vietnamese in San Gabriel.
Yes, it’s possible for me to be intimidated…just a little.
I am currently sitting in Ha Tien Quan (Facebook link only) a humble Vietnamese place in San Gabriel. The mood is mellow, low key. It’s a little after the lunch peak, so there’s some seats available. It’s a place I’d dive into any chance I got…normally.
…and then I look at the menu.
There are just some things on this menu that I…I…don’t have clue about.
We’re talking elaborate noodle dishes, stews and curries that I’ve never seen before. I’d like to think I’ve got a little experience with Vietnamese cuisine, but damn. I needs me some more lessons.
Looking at my neighboring tables, the answer is…no. They don’t. There does seem to be a Vietnamese variation on Hot Pot that will require further investigation on my part.
There is a lot that looks good on that menu. There may be a lot that I don’t know, but there’s a lot I’m willing to–
–Ooooh, is that a Fried Pork Chop, with two fried eggs? I know what that is.
And Iced Lemon Soda, with a salted variety, I know what those are.
Oh, I’m coming into focus now. I’m on firmer ground now.
Okay, now I know where I am. Know what I’m doing.
Ha Tien Quan is a restaurant filled with the smells and sights of Vietnam. Well, the smells for sure. There is a slight colonial feel to the place, but it really runs in the undercurrent. I could say something similar about the sights, the photos on the wall, but I swear that picture over here is a picture of the Taipei Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world…in Taiwan. And I could swear those are Chinese characters on that poster over there. (Reading Yelp comments, I’m not the only one to have noticed this.)
Past that, what do you need to know? They’ve got Pho!
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Well, the good news…for me, I found the Pho at the back of that somewhat intimidating menu. So I went with the Pho with Beef Ball. All things considered, it’s a pretty straight ahead Pho. Good broth. Really good noodles. (I’m starting to come to the conclusion that bad Noodles are the kind that instantly meld together when exposed to the heat of the broth.). These were not that. These…were good.
I don’t know who it was, the Owner, the Manager, offered me a tiny Bean dish for a taste of Ha Tien Quan’s dessert offerings. To the untrained eye, it looks (and to an extent feels) like raw egg yolk with bits of rice in it. But it was really tasty. Almost a bit of a palate cleanser if you think about it. If offered, give it a try. It’s why you’re a foodie, to try stuff out.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Nothing really to alert you too. Like most quality establishments in the SGV, it’s a Cash only place.
PARKING: Plentiful. There are two levels of parking. The stuff on the top level is sure to be taken by the time you get there. But there is plenty of parking downstairs, and it’s free.
Ha Tien Quan
529 E. Valley Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Tel: (626) 288-1896