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Explorations on Brookhurst, Part I

I love Brookhurst. It starts with chainlandia, then goes to Vietnam, up to Korea, then over to Lebanon, and finally to Mexico. It's totally one of the chow axes of LA. So this Sunday I started exploring.

Breakfast was at Pho 86, slightly south of Hazard in Westminster. Walked in at 8 AM, sat down, waved off the menu, and ordered pho tai chin nam and ca phe sua nong. Everyone stopped and stared -- a white guy in a pho shop at 8 AM on a Sunday, ordering in Vietnamese, are you KIDDING me?

Literally forty-five seconds after I put in the order, it was in front of me. The ca phe was pre-made, unfortunately, drawn from a large electric samovar. The pho and the xalach dia (table salad) arrived -- and the table salad, wonder of wonders, actually had ngo gai (sawleaf herb, also known as culantro), TWO things of lime, and an entire chili pepper in slices.

There weren't any sauce bowls on the table, so I figured I'd make do with a soup spoon (you know the deal, flat-bottomed plastic Asian soup spoons). A woman handed me a sauce bowl with a glower... sorry, Your Excellency, I didn't realise How Things Are Done Here. I mixed my lime juice and my black pepper, added my hoisin and rooster sauce to the pho, and dug in.

The broth was a bit weak (it strengthens throughout the day) but with the hoisin and rooster sauce, it was damn near perfect. Noodles were wonderful, not clumped together but not so wet that they diluted the broth.

People kept trying to offer me forks. Finally I looked at the owner, who kept trying to nudge the fork under my arm, and said in Vietnamese, "How am I going to eat pho with a fork? Please! Let me eat, I'm hungry." That got a lot of stares.

For lunch after church, Mrs Ubergeek requested banh mi, so I headed down to Banh Mi Che Cali, one block south of Bolsa. The woman at the cash desk was quite rude. When I asked (in Viet) if they had any bo ragu or any xa xiu, she shouted in English, "DO YOU SEE IT ON THE MENU?" I mean, give me a break, the one in Rosemead has it, anyone would think I'd been tormenting her for hours. I got a grilled pork, a grilled chicken, a nem nuong and a xiu mai. The pork was fine, though fatty. The chicken was stuffed ridiculously full and was VERY tasty. The nem nuong was ice cold and I didn't enjoy it, but it was more than made up for by the xiu mai, which is like a little pork meatball flavoured like shu mai. SO TASTY! At $1.75 each, you can't beat the price -- and if you like your banh mi on French rolls, it's $2.00 each but 3 for the price of 2. I prefer mine on Viet baguette (which has rice flour in it to make it lighter). We also got a package of goi cuon, the "summer rolls" (unfried, with pork, shrimp, lettuce, herbs, noodles and cucumber inside). Fantastic.

Finally, Mrs Ubergeek had an appointment in LA in the evening, so I was on my own. I couldn't deal with eating bo bay mon (7 courses of beef) myself, though I was intrigued by Pagolac, so I went to Korea House (near Garden Grove Blvd.) and had some extremely mediocre buffet-style Korean BBQ... just like its sister in Tustin, fine if you want boring meat and substandard panchan but are very hungry.

I look forward to trying more things on Brookhurst -- Brodard, Pagolac, more Korean places, and the good-smelling Lebanese places between Katella and Ball.

Pho 86
14576 Brookhurst St.
Westminster
(714) 839-4591
7 days a week, 0500-2130

Banh Mi Che Cali
15551 Brookhurst St.
Westminster
(714) 839-8185
Hours not posted

Korea House
12118 Brookhurst St.
Garden Grove
(714) 636-1700
7 days a week, 1100-2200

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  1. I gotta plug Brodard for its nem nuong cuon and other cuon dishes. I don't know how many times I've ducked out of 405 traffic just so that I can sit and loiter for an hour while traffic dies down.

    (I rarely order my ca phe sua da anywhere since there's a chance it comes out of a mix; when I order it nong, I'm more likely to get the mini-press. Also, Com Tam Thuan Kieu had the wherewithall to serve ca phe not in a saucer but in a small bowl so that I could make a small hot water moat.)

    1. Brookhurst is indeed a fantastic street! We live one street over, on Euclid and chapman in Garden Grove. So if you continue south on Brookhurst, just past Ellis but before Garfield (south of the 405), there are WONDERFUL restaurants down there. Tsuruhashi is on the East side of Brookhurst, just north of Garfield, and on the west side is Shin Sen Gumi. I love the BBQ at Tsuruhashi, they use prime and kobe beef there, and you cook it yourself at your table. And the Ramen at Shin Sen Gumi is great, as is the yakitori on the other side. Have fun exploring Brookhurst. My 2 favorite Pho places are Pho Thanh Lich and Pho 79, both at Brookhurst and Hazard.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kingkong5

        I've been to Shinsengumi (the yakitori side only) -- it was one of the most fun evenings I can recall.

        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          It's definately an anti-depresant!

      2. i'm surprised this area doesn't get as much exposure on this board as it should. some of my egyptian grad student friends took me to get middle eastern food here- they said that it was the best in the area, and we drove down from ucla. i can't remember the name but we went during ramadan and the restaurant was buffet style for the fast breaking. i've had a lot of middle eastern food but half of the foods at the buffet were new to me- and it was amazingly good.

        1. And Alerto's is on Brookhurst Street too. Love their Carne Asada Nachos.

          Here are some recent pics of it:
          http://elmomonster.blogspot.com/2007/...

          1. Garden Grove certainly gets my respect. Like I said in another post, if I had to only eat on Brookhurst, Valley Blvd, 3rd St and Beverly, I'd be just fine with that.

            1. coffee and pho? interesting. I've never done that myself.

              3 Replies
              1. re: jaykayen

                OH man on a cold day, ca phe sua nong and pho are perfect. Let the ca phe steep through the mini press while you dine on the broth, and then finish the meal with an espresso-caliber drink that still packs enough sweetness to put a frappucino to shame.

                1. re: SauceSupreme

                  If you like sweet drinks with your pho, my favorites are unsweetened, hot sua dau nanh, with sugar on the bottom that you have to stir up yourself. For something cold, soda chanh.

                  But I will try coffee with pho, just once...maybe (:

                  1. re: jaykayen

                    I don't like sua dau nanh (soy-milk or soya juice to the rest of the world) very much, hot or cold... it just has this cloying aftertaste and a smell that recalls baby formula.

                    I like tea quite a lot but when I drink it with pho, it (the tea) tastes washed-out.

              2. I just went to Brodard tonight for the first time. I played it safe and had a nice bowl of Bun Bo Xao and an iced coffee. The website looks like the joint has a bit of flair, but it kind of felt like a coffee chop at the Circus Circus actuallly. The service was rapid fast and as I surveyed the room, I was one of two Euro-Americans eating - the other (another shaved headed dude) was with his girlfriend. The food was good, not earth shattering, but the people there seemed to like it a lot. Having said that, I don't think that the rule of "the place is full of fill-in-the-ethnic-group, so it must be great" always applys. Max's of Manilla is another case in point - I've had much better Filipino food elsewhere. But it was a nice bowl of vermicelli and the coffee was as potent as liquid crack (you should see how fast I am typing right now!)

                So, since this was my baptism, where should I venture next? I have three more months of grad school at CSULB and I want to take advantage of my proximity to the South Bay and North OC.

                Oh, and I love that it is located behind the "Mall of Fortune" - Love that!

                6 Replies
                1. re: djquinnc

                  Which Brodard's did you go to? Also, they are known for their spring rolls, not sure what they are called in Viet. Never had Bun there, but also like the Duck salad.

                  1. re: justagthing

                    The one in the OC - I was winging it solo, so I didn't want to order a bunch of stuff that I might not finish. I did notice that the rolls were coming out of the kitchen at a rapid clip!

                    1. re: djquinnc

                      there are two in OC, one off of brookhurst and the other just off the freeway, in an old 'big yellow house' . that one is newer, so I don't know how it is. the one behind the 99 cent store is the one i frequent.

                      1. re: justagthing

                        Yes, it was the one behind the 99 cent store.

                  2. re: djquinnc

                    Well, you missed out on Brodard's signature dish which is the nem nuong cuon. They're spring rolls (soft rice paper wrapped around bbq pork paste, vegetables) accompanied by a great dipping sauce that contains meat and crab (I think). They cost $1.25 per roll, so they're usually ordered in groups of 4 for $5 but you can order as many or as few as you wish.

                    If you're in that same area, I would suggest the Bo 7 Mon Hong An in the opposite corner ("in the front" of the Mall of Fortune) behind the McDonald's. For about $13 you will be served 7 courses of beef dishes, so good! There are also a ton of other Vietnamese restaurants in the area, which I've outlined in this post, here -

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/341312

                    Good luck and have fun!

                    1. re: kingkong5

                      Agree re: nem nuong cuon. I've tried so many other things on the menu since I love Brodard's atmosphere, even though you describe it as a coffee shop at Circus Circus. But every time the only thing that was really totally worthwhile was those spring rolls. Yes it is crab in the dipping sauce.

                  3. Can't wait to read Part 2. Thanks for sharing.