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Monday, September 26, 2016

Xoia Vietnamese Eats: A work in progress

Story and photos by Valentina Silva

Xoia, Echo Park’s new Vietnamese joint, opened to a lot of fanfare last month. So much buzz was to be expected, considering the interesting back story and promise of an exciting new concept—Vietnamese food with Mexican flair (i.e. pho tacos) was bound to spark fascination in the aftermath of Kogi mania.

But buzz will only get you so far. Currently, the actual experience at Xoia doesn’t quite live up to the hoopla, yet there’s a lot of potential here and some definite hits among the misses. As with most new restaurants, there are kinks to be worked out, but if you can tough out the confused service and uneven menu, there are good flavors to be had at Xoia.

We started with the much publicized Pho Beef Tacos. It’s a fun idea and they looked beautiful, but the execution was lacking. Corn tortillas are filled with the beef used to flavor their pho, but the meat was a little limp and too greasy. A little crackle and more robust seasoning were in order. The house-made salsa, however, was delicious—smoky and thick with a nice kick.

Things started to look up with the Banh Xeo, a crepe made with coconut milk and filled with shrimp and pork. The richness was tamed by the crisp freshness of lettuce and bean sprouts, making it a satisfying appetizer.

The Mi Quang (pictured at the top of the post) was good. Hiding underneath lettuce, peanuts and crispy rice crackers, were fat yellow rice noodles, shrimp and pork that tasted like carnitas (that’s a compliment). There’s also a bit of broth in that big bowl.

Two bowls of Pho were ordered—the Pho Tai, with rare beef, and the Vegetarian Pho. The Pho Tai broth was really flavorful with a hint of cinnamon. I definitely tilted the bowl, and the meat was perfect. The Vegetarian Pho, on the other hand, was very bland, requiring a flood of hoisin sauce. The fresh mushrooms and pile of tofu were a plus.

The Verdict: Xoia is a work in progress, and I’m definitely rooting for it. The neighborhood seems to be embracing this place, and I hope their growth is exponential.

Valentina Silva is a regular contributor writing about food and restaurants. You can also find Valentina’s reviews and stories on her new blog, Eastside Food Bites.



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14 comments

  1. really excited about this place. i just LOVE the outdoor patio and clean, minimalist decor.

    agree with you on the tacos… a little too greasy for my liking. haven’t tried the pho, but i did have the chicken curry bahn mi the one time i went and it was fantastic. big thumbs up from me.

    hope xoia is a big success! i’ll be back.

  2. Wow! I just ate there last night and these are my thoughts exactly. I was very disappointed with the Mi Quang and woke up this morning with a belly ache. It seems they put more into the decor and buzz than the food itself. Guess it just goes to show: location, location, location.

    I’ll stick with Pho Cafe.

  3. I loved the food, and the outdoor patio is great. Restored my faith in new Echo Park restaurants after trying the fiasco that is Mooi.

    Only nitpick was the waiter that kept dropping dishes and glasses. He did it so many times that it started to become funny. Wish I had worn a raincoat though.

  4. I have been there twice and tried two dishes there. First, I had the Pho Tacos. I agree that they were slightly greasy, but still pretty good. I found the sauce/salsa very dissapointing. It was very similar to the Siracha (sp?) hot sauce, which was also available at the table, and which was, frankly, a better accompanyment. I was there on the first week of opening and it sounds like maybe they have improved the sauce/salsa since. Still, overall, the ingredients were good and the tacos were satisfying.

    My second time, I had the chicken Pho. It was perfection. The noodles, the chicken, the broth and the crunchy garnishes were totally satisfying. So, in sum, while they need to improve a few things, overall, it is a great new restaurant and does its thing very well.

  5. Was excited to have a Pho spot within walking distance, but I’ll be jumping on the bus and heading to Pho Cafe for a while and give Xoia some time to fine tune their flavors.

    Also, that was not merely a “hint of cinnamon”.

  6. I liked Xoia’s vegetarian pho and I don’t really like Pho Cafe’s vegetarian pho. The broth was quite good, IMO. I ate there just a few days ago. I’m Vietnamese (and desperately miss my mom’s pho) and the pho at Pho Cafe doesn’t even come close to some of the places in Little Saigon. Monk- If you’re going to imply that Xoia is only going to become liked or popular just because it’s in a good location that is starved for Vietnamese food, you can say that as well about Pho Cafe. How many of the people you always see at Pho Cafe even know what real Vietnamese food is BESIDES pho?

  7. @virtute: I agree about Pho Cafe. I already prefer xoia.
    @boosh: fair enough about the cinnamon, but it worked for me.

    What I’m reading here echoes what I was saying in the post. It really seems like xoia’s biggest challenge is consistency. One day something is great and the next it’s just okay or worse. Ultimately, though, I think it will become an all around great restaurant.

  8. Valentina, thanks for the reviews…I like that they aren’t snarky and pretentious (and full of lame anecdotes/jokes) like most of the reviews on Yelp. I understand that there’s a lot of hype around Pho Cafe and Xoia in part because there really isn’t a lot of Viet food in this area, and I don’t think either place is terrible.. I really like the decor and the atmosphere of Xoia much better than Pho Cafe. It feels more open while at Pho Cafe, I feel like I’m packed in a tin of sardines with how cramped it is. I try not to judge a restaurant, especially a new one, if I’ve only eaten there once (unless the experience is a complete disaster). I’ve only eaten at Xoia once but the vegetarian pho was quite good so I will be back again. I’ve eaten at Pho Cafe multiple times and every time I’ve been disappointed by the broth.

  9. Sorry, but I thought this place was terrible. Really nice people but very poor food.

  10. I’m sorry, but $8 for pho is ridiculous.

    I’ll stick with driving to Pho Legend Noodle & Grill.
    http://tinyurl.com/3382vy2

    Cheap and delicious.

  11. @Bradley: I often hear this in response to the new, “hip” pho places. While I agree that you can get the best pho for very cheap (my favorite, Golden Deli, sells it for around $5), I’m not really offended by the higher prices at places like Xoia. Sure, you’re paying for ambiance, but sometimes I like a little ambiance…other times I just want spectacular pho.

  12. @bradley – I’m sorry, but $6 for pho is ridiculous. I mean, I’ve been to Vietnam (no, not just Saigon or Hanoi) where I paid less than $1 for the most amazing pho I’ve ever had besides my mother’s.

    I’ll stick with spending $1500 to fly to Vietnam to pay less than $1 for the most authentic, delicious bowl of pho I’ve ever had.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Cong+Quynh,+District+1,+Ho+Chi+Minh+City,+Vietnam&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=C%E1%BB%91ng+Qu%E1%BB%B3nh,+District+1,+Ho+Chi+Minh+City,+Vietnam
    /end sarcasm

    Are we done with this now? The one-upping is ridiculous, and I find it very commonplace in Echo Park and Silverlake with ANY possible topic. Where the best ethnic food/bar/restaurant/band is, as long as not too many people know about it yet, then you can feel smug about it!

  13. @ virtue aint that the truth about all these hipsters trying to one up each other when they speak. They all have to have the bestest experience ever LOL. Yes I purposely misspelled that word so don’t get bent out of shape.

  14. hey virtute: i believe you were just one upping everyone; not only does your mom make it, but your so street that you only eat it in Vietnam. and definitely not in Saigon or Hanoi. and then you go on to brag about how cheap you get it for. you’re just as bad as everyone else.

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