Friday, July 20th | SJ Restaurant | 1280 E. Holt Ave, Pomona, CA 91767
Maybe it only seems like everything good is on Holt.
Friday afternoon we decided to give our favorite old standby taquería El Triunfo a visit, but, sadly, El Triunfo was closed due to repairs. Since we were on the far west end of Holt – to us, at least; the Dudley intersection – we spun the wheel and headed east, certain we’d find some good food. We passed a lot — Taquería El Patio, Guasalmex, Day Day’s (still to come), Hilltop’s, Mariscos Jalisco, LA TIA — until finally we found a new place, one perfect for this space: SJ Restaurant, purveyor of Vietnamese cuisine and various fun drinks.
Like all sane humans, we’re huge fans of Vietnamese food: who doesn’t like phở, or a fat bowl of vermicelli with various sliced vegetables and spiced grilled meats all sprinkled in fish sauce, or just a wonderfully simple bánh mì? The tang, the smoke, the sour … and the sweet, the aromatic … all that the fresh and light soulfulness of Vietnamese food is particularly excellent summer food, and since it’s always summer here, of course we were excited to’ve found a new spot. (There is another longtime Vietnamese restaurant also in Pomona; in thirteen years we’ve eaten there all of three times ….)
But with SJ Restaurant, we were hopeful. We walked in, and the space, while a bit warm, was nice: large, open, modern but simple decor, there’s a bubble tea/smoothie stand at the entrance, and they have karaoke a few times a week. Karaoke! Bubble tea! Modern but simple! Why not be hopeful? It’s a season of hope: the moon is going to turn bloody this week, at least in some parts of the world, and that has to count for something, right? Plus Lebron signed with the Lakers. And Cohen secretly recorded phone calls! You go, Mikey!
So the worm is turning – and, too, the snail: at SJ, there is an entire section on the menu titled Escargot (we demurred; maybe a future adventure). Instead we ordered conservatively: spring rolls (2 for $3.50, packed with the usual, plus a nice funky smear of shrimp paste; delicious); a charboiled pork bánh mì, no mayo ($3.50 … and the pork at SJ is ridiculously flavorful; thin lean cuts marinated to a radiant orange, with all the sour/smoke/salt/tang you could want; liberally stuffed into the baguette, too); and that afore-mentioned/-pictured bowl of vermicelli ($8.25; with the same pork, + shrimp and eggrolls; the shrimp was a little dry but great, the eggrolls were great, the mix of minced veg and herbs and sprouts and, again, that pork was killer).
Here’s the bánh mì and the spring rolls (hey, Subway: five dollars is a ripoff).
SJ is good. SJ is great. We’ll be going back – often.