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.