Vietnam Restaurant (SGV)
- ipsedixit Nov 26, 2007 02:22 PM
Oftentimes I'll get an incredible urge for Vietnamese food and drive like a crazed lunatic to Golden Deli only to learn that about 100 other people have had the same urge as me, but got to the restaurant about 10 seconds before I did.
So, when I drove by Vietnam Restaurant the other day and saw it packed to the gills I wondered if this was the "overflow" room for Golden Deli.
You see, Vietnam Restaurant occupies a space on Las Tunas Drive that is best described as a shack masquerading as an eye-sore of a building. The location has seen its share of tenants, everything from a Chinese fast food joint to a Thai take out place. Not one of them lasted longer than a couple of months. Vietnam Restaurant might just buck that trend.
It takes quite a bit of guts and gumption to open up a Vietnamese restaurant so close to the popular (and famous) Golden Deli, but from what I can tell, this place has the goods to compete with the big boys up the street.
What to get? It's a limited menu. But I think the bún bò kho is some of the best you'll find in the SGV. The meat is tender and the broth is rich and savory. In fact, I think all the beef dishes here are great, including the com bò kho. They also have the Vietnamese 12 courses of beef, which I have yet to try, but will before I leave town.
So, if you are like, always about 10 seconds too late to everything ... check them out.
(By the way, anyone know if Vietnam Restaurant is related to Vietnam House?)
340 W. Las Tunas Drive
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Vietnam Restaurant is run by one of the siblings of the owners of the Golden Deli clan. I believe they are closed on Thursday, which is an unusual day to close. My theory is that they are coordinating their off days so that at least restaurant is open on any day of the week. But again, it's just my theory.
I don't know if Vietnam Restaurant is related to Vietnam HOUSE; however, the latter (House) is run by the same folks as Golden Deli. Since Vietnan House takes credit cards, serves beer, and has better parking than its sibling across the street, I almost always wind up at Vietnam House rather than Golden Deli (plus, VH has the 7 Courses of Beef thing). NB: VH is closed on Tuesday. Golden Deli is closed on Wednesday. Perhaps, then, Vietnam Restaurant is related, and therefore closed on Thursdays (when the other two are open).
Spoke with the owner of Vietnam Restaurant and was informed that he and his wife (the cook) were former part owners of Vietnam House, but due to a family squabble, they left to open up their own restaurant. I no longer go to Vietnam House since the wife orginated most of the recipes and she is now at Vietnam Restaurant. IMHO, they have the best-tasting pho and egg roll rolls of any place in SoCal and I've tried countless places!
Interesting. I've never really been able to detect much difference (leaving aside the fact that they don't do the 7 courses of beef at Golden Deli...do they have it at "Restaurant?"), except that I actually prefer the goi cuon (I'm sure I misspelled that...the spring roll things) at "House." As for the pho...I guess I'd have to compare them side-by-side, along with the egg rolls. I haven't strayed very far from those few basic items because I like them so much.
I'll definitely have to give "Restaurant" a try, though. Do you know if they take credit cards? Serve beer?
A food-loving friend visiting from Palo Alto gave us a good excuse to check this place out last night - he lives far enough away from wherever might be the epicenter of Bay Area Vietnamese culture to be deprived of Vietnamese food on a regular basis, and we agreed that this looked to be worth a try.
It's a nice clean little place, more spacious than it looks from the street, only about a third full at 7:30, and we were greeted warmly and seated immediately. The menu is not as extensive as some we've seen, but much of what was there was not familiar to us. The young serving guy was a little shy, but he brought over some pictures of representative dishes by way of Teaching Aids, and that broke through our own reticence. We wound up each getting a variety of bun, our friend one with snails and pork in a reddish broth with tomatoes, Mrs. O a cold beefy one she's had and liked before, and I the bun bo hue that I've been wanting since I first read about it. Server kid looked skeptical and asked, in a roundabout way, if I knew what I was getting into here, and I said "YES," very firmly, even though the only thing I could remember was that it was supposed to be quite spicy. We also ordered an appetizer described as rice cakes with crunchy shrimp and something we didn't know about on top. This arrived sometime after the bowls did, and gave us all a few How-do-I-eat-that? moments. The "rice cakes" were a kind of gluey cold pancake about 3" in diameter, topped with what looked like boiled egg yolk and the crumbles of shrimp. They were a bit too sticky for fingers and reluctant to be picked up neatly with chopsticks, and a bit flavorless as well, but we pretended that they were a kind of taco (similar challenges, if not flavor) and killed them off, helped by dashes of sauce of one sort or another.
The bun was all very, very good. Mrs. O gets the kind she had at Indochine in Pasadena, where she often has lunch, and remarked that this serving was not only twice the size of Indochine's (at about the same price) but notably better as well. David from PA was happily plowing through his whenever I looked up, which wasn't often. Mine exceeded my expectations, easy since I'd hardly had any - yes, quite spicy, but it was a lovely kind of burn. I imagine the chunks of congealed pork blood and the big slice of pig knuckle might be a turnoff to some tourist from San Marino, but the soup and ingredients were all very satisfying to Midwestern Boy here. Both owners, husband and wife, came by to ask how we liked everything, and we had a nice chat with the wife, who is the chef and (as mentioned elsewhere) former co-owner of Vietnam House, as she explained.
Of course it was another insanely cheap SGV meal - all of the aforementioned, plus tax, 20%tip, and a glass of lemonade, all came to $30 even. Highly recommended!
re: Will Owen
My friend and I got take out from Indochine last night-the first time I ever got take out pho! The meat in the pho tai was pretty tender and flavorful but alas it just pales in comparison to pho places like Golden Deli in food and price! I guess the area Indochine is it explains it's higher prices but I couldn't helped but be a little shocked when I opened the box holding our $7 spring rolls and found 3 little rolls with a very peanut butter like sauce. We might go there again because of it's convenient location to where my friend lives but we would much prefer the Vietnamese places in the San Gabriel area.