Hao Vi is this little restaurant is smack in the middle of City Heights. Jake and I used to pass it all of the time on the way to his old apartment in the ‘hood and for some reason, I always wanted to go here. It didn’t look like much, just this tiny little place on the corner, but I wanted to go exploring. The day we were going to actually go we couldn’t, since Jake didn’t have any cash and I had a brain fart and couldn’t remember my pin number. I racked and racked my brain, but I just could not think of it! It was like one day I remembered it, and the next day – poof! That memory was gone.
Ah well. I got a new bank card and reset my pin to something I would actually remember and we were finally able to go here.
As you can see from that sign on the counter, this place is definitely “CASH ONLY”.
And yes, that giant light in the back is probably one of two lights in the whole place. The other from the front of the place, where the outside sign is located. They aren’t into interior lighting in this place. It also looks kind of dirty and there’s a weird tray of condiments at every table. Oh, and the parking is this weird tiny lot in the back off of a side road, with no lights there either.
This place screams “hole in the wall” on so many levels.
They’ve got a shorter menu then I’ve seen at other Chinese restaurants. No descriptions on it at all with a vague idea of what you’re going to get. We tried to ask the waitress what a few things were but it was hard for her to explain in broken English and it was hard for us to understand. We just went with it and ordered the best we could.
[beef chow mein (dry) – $7.99]
When we got our dishes, I actually confused them. And then I confused them again while writing this post. The names of the dishes didn’t quite match up to what I thought – why does it say dry in parenthesis? No idea. What we did get was a veggie laden dish with some delicious stir fried beef and yellow noodles.
You can’t really see how much (or what kind) noodles is in the dish from that first photo so here’s another shot. Under the layer of veggies lies this bed of noodles with a lovely little sauce. In the mix are bean sprouts, cabbage, onions, carrots and topped off with a sweetish sauce that’s made with pork and beef stock. There’s definitely a ton of veggies in this dish (much to Jake’s dismay) but the beef is tender and well seasoned. A surprisingly excellent first dish to start off with.
Another note here: we ordered three dishes, and each dish came out one at a time – long enough for us to polish off a majority of the dish before the next item came out. The dishes are served family style and it’s plenty of food for sharing!
[bbq pork vegetable crisp noodle – $6.50]
The second thing I picked was under “Chow Fun & Mein” – which was Chow Fun and which was Chow Mein I’ll never know.
Now this one sort of came out like what I thought – with crisp noodles on top. They look a lot like the noodles from the previous dish – except the noodles are crunchy and there’s a tasty sauce underneath.
This one has got BBQ pork plus boy choy as the veggies of choice.
As you continue eating the dish, the sauce starts to soak up the noodles (see above!) and gets into the noodles and makes them soft. You start off with the crunchy noodles and then it boils down to softer noodles with an intense and flavorful sauce. The sauce really made this dish shine – it was packed with a flavorful broth and had a slightly sweet taste to it. It paired excellently with the beef and bok choy – definitely a dish I’d love to try again (with maybe a different meat).
[thai ginger chicken – $6.50]
Jake heard from somewhere (I can’t remember where) that the Thai Ginger Chicken was good and a recommended dish so we decided to see what the fuss was all about. I’d like to point out that there’s no mention whatsoever that this is a spicy dish.
I mean, holy crap! Look at all of those jalpenos! I admit I’ve liked some more spicy things lately, but this was just a little bit out of my comfort zone. The chicken pieces have got a very light coating/batter on them and are maybe flash fried since they’re got a bit of a crunchy exterior. Very tender on the inside though and just punched with flavor from the garlic and ginger laden dish.
Also in the mix: onions, peppers and cucumbers (though, you can’t see them in this photo). I wasn’t able to eat much of this one since it was so darn spicy – if the heat had been taken down a notch and there weren’t any jalpeno’s I would have really liked this dish. I liked how the chicken was prepped and cooked and the overall flavor from the garlic and ginger – just way too spicy for me! I’d eat it again though if they could turn down the spice level on this one.
If you can get over the sketchy location, the weird, tiny unlit parking lot, the kind-of-dirty interior, the bad lighting and the fact you gotta shell out cash for this place… then it’s totally worth a visit, just for that crunchy bbq pork dish!
Hao Vi Chinese Restaurant
4451 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92105