"Finer" Vietnamese Dining in Little Saigon, OC??
- hch_nguyen Jul 13, 2007 07:49 AM
While there's plenty of good food in Little Saigon, I wouldn't say there's a plethora of "finer" choices. I have friends coming in from out of town whom I haven't seen in a while. I don't want to take them to some hole in the wall, where I know we will be able to get some great chow. In this case, ambience is also important. In addition, they are Vietnamese, too, so they already know typical, hole in the wall, Vietnamese places (not necessarily in SoCal) where you get great food at amazing prices. Not a whole lot of surprises there....
I've heard that Brodard Chateau is quite nice. I've never had anything but the Nem Nuong spring rolls at Brodard and my parents had a Bun Cha Ha Noi that they said was downright dreadful. So, what else might be good at their more upscale sister restaurant?? I'll be paying, so I wanted a heads up on price since I know it's a bit pricier. My inner chowhound is categorically averse to being shafted à la Crustucean, but I want to provide a pleasant evening. How does Brodard Chateau compare to S Vietnamese Fine Dining in food, ambience, and cost?? What other options might there be in Litte Saigon?
Thank you, all!
My brother in food blogging Kirk (of MMM-YOSO), tried S. Vietnamese and thought it was a "mixed bag".
Here's his review:
I haven't been to S. Vietnamese, but got the same impressions on Brodard Chateau. You pay more for the same food, and in some cases not-as-well-executed either.
AYSIA and a new place called V something (can't remember)...both on Brookhurst.
There is a definite lack of fine dining places in Little Saigon. The places like S and Brodard Chateau merely take the same food available at the sister restaurant and charge more for it. The same nem nuong cuon (albeit very tasty and good!) just costs more at the Chateau. As a vietnamese person, why would I pay more for that when I can get the exact same thing down the street at your other restaurant for cheaper? At least with both of these restaurants you will not be anywhere near the shafting you will get at Crustecean; their prices are not THAT high. A nice vietnamese restaurant that is still a good value IMHO is Favori, on First between Fairview and Harbor. They do the whole baked crispy catfish that you roll in rice paper, and they do it well. For other celebrations, we sometimes go to Bo 7 Mon either at Anh Hong or Hong An. And of course there is always lobster at the chinese/vietnamese places like Newport Seafood, Royal Capital, Seafood Cove, etc.
Having said that, I find that for special occasions we tend to hit up the Japanese restaurants in the area. For a group of 5 or less, I really recommend Tsuruhashi at Brookhurst near Garfield, which is a great Japanese BBQ at your table place. Just up the street is Kappo Honda and Shin Sen Gumi, good for izakaya (food on sticks while drinking), but that can get pricey esp with large groups.
Another fun idea would be any of the crawfish places; there are lots like Boiling Crab, Cajun Corner, etc. Have fun!
I haven't been there in awhile (moved out of the area dagnabit!) but Favori is a nice restaurant on the outskirts of Little Saigon. It was quite a pleasant surprise the first time I went: I wasn't expecting a fine dining establishment, the friend I went with specializes in dives.
I ate there several times over the years and the food was consistently good.
Here's a link to the restaurant's website. Menus are posted so you can get some idea of what they serve and prices:
The food is French/Vietnamese
Bun Cha Ha Noi (on bolsa between Magnolia/Bushard) is AWESOME. The service is quick, the food is great: bun cha ha noi, cha ca thanh long would be their specialties.
Now, that being said, finer dining in vietnamese terms and finer dining in american terms are worlds apart (esp. in little saigon). That being said, your best bet hands down is Favori (as mentioned above).
It went there maybe 2 weeks ago with the family and GF: the service is leaps and bounds above normal vietnamese establishments. The ambience is (for the most part) is way better than most normal viet restaurants, ALMOST bordering on romantic.
The killer: since it's so affordable, vietnamese families like to go there. With kids. That talk. Alot. Which definately kills the ambience. BUT, do get the whole catfish + banana flambe.
I HAVE been there when the catfish wasn't so fresh (followed by a long period of not going there). But I've been there many times when the catfish was onpoint (like the visit 2 weeks ago); and when it's onpoint, jesus christ it's good. Also get the beef/lemon/shrimp "salad" (or goi in vietnamese terms)
We went with a group of 4 and it was about 20-25 PP.
Brodard can /itself.
Sorry, just realized it is the S. Viet place that was already mentioned. I usually eat at the Brodard's off Brookhurst and have not gone to the Chateau, but I have also heard that it is more expensive for the same items there rather than at the other.
Da Lat Bistro
16525 Brookhurst St. Fountain Valley
They have the roasted fish like Favori but a newer and nicer ambiance. Last time I was there, the bo luc lac was very good and presented nicely. There is actual wine served at the restaurant.
I've been to Favori twice - about 5 years apart. The food is good, but it's a little rundown and if you're looking for some place with nice ambiance, this really isn't the place. It's trying to be nice restaurant with the turned down lighting, BUT I can't help but feel uncomfortable there. If the lights were turned on, I think that I would turn and run.
It came recommended to me by a friend who is Vietnamese and knows her stuff. But I can't get over the ambiance for the food. Don't get me wrong, I like my hole-in-the-walls but I like to be able to see the grittiness. Not imagine the worst!
It would be lovely to find an upscale restaurant or one with a nice ambiance - not has snooty and high falutin' as Crustacean but more like Lemongrass in Sacramento (http://www.lemongrassrestaurant.com/).
Since you are asking about the two restaurants in particular, I will just address those. I trust the recs of everyone else, though.
Food - agree that it is similar enough in flavor to make you ask "why pay this much when I can go elsewhere for less?" well, it's because of the next factor.
Ambience - both are tastefully decorated. I prefer S with the piano player and more polished service. Patio seating is also a nice option here. While we were in the same parking lot as a Target, I preferred the general ease of accessability and location here than to the car dealership and In-n-Out down the street from Brodard.
Cost - Brodard seemed to be a bit more costly than S. Not by much, though.
I do favor a comfortable atmosphere over crowds when I want a satisfying meal (or if I have guests). The extra bit of $ is worth the attentiveness and presentation alone. When I'm really craving something, however, it's price + convenience for sure.
Thanks to everyone for their responses. I'm still not quite sure where I'll be taking them, but it helps to have more reference points. I think I'll just have to own the fact no place is going to quite fit the bill. I will probably end up taking them to Brodard Chateau (*maybe* Favori). While I agree that it is annoying to pay more for the same food, you do get more for your money in terms of the whole dining experience.
It sounds like you and your friends are just tired of the same ol' same ol' that Little Saigon has to offer. Try Benley for something a little different. It's a quaint (not in the old-fashioned sense), artsy, modernistic cafe in Long Beach off the 605. You can order pho in a small bowl (chen nho) and share a plate of bo luc lac. I've also had a fantastic roll there but can't remember the name of it now.
Here's a fair review of it:
Well, since my friends are from Texas, it would be inaccurate to say they're tired of anything in Little Saigon. I just wanted to take them some place that didn't qualify as "hole-in-the-wall" since they're from out of town and all. I really wanted to try and stay inside the Little Saigon area because that's where they're staying, but this Benley place certainly sounds interesting! I'm not even sure they have a car, but I might have to figure out a way for them to get up to Long Beach. Thanks, Tkn!
Ah, ok, I misread your OP. "Hole-in-the-wall" has been used to describe so many things that its meaning is lost to me now. Benley is just a tiny little hallway lined with tables on both sides. Don't expect chandeliers and silver platters here, but there is a certain level of attention to detail in the food that you don't usually get at other Vietnamese restaurants. If your friends run out of options for transportation, let me offer to take them in my humble wheels.
I did look at the few pictures on the web of Benley, and it is definitely a tiny little hallway, but the food does seem like a successful modernization of Vietnamese cuisine from what I read. I'm not certain I'm taking them to Benley, but I'm considering it for sure and intend to go on my own one day if I don't make it there with them.
lol. Thanks for the offer of transportation! but my friends think I'm odd enough without pawning them off to a fellow chowhound for the sake of good food....Thank you again for your recommendation. - Christine
I just went to Benley's today-it was so good! My friend and I ordered 5 appetizers and pho, plus two desserts. Everything was amazing, and not too heavy. The buttermilk panna cotta...you've gotta try it. Plus, you cannot beat the prices, I think the most expensive thing was the salmon for 15.95.