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Xanh or Vien Dong for dinner Friday?

I've never been to either, but I've been to Hanoi for similar food they serve at Vien Dong. And I usually eat my ca kho to (catfish in caramel sauce) with com phan at Pho Bolsa or Thanh My. Not sure what I'm feeling like, where would you go if you had to choose one?

BTW, the guy doesn't care for the usual fish sauce dip so that's why I'm leaning towards Xanh. Anything at Vien Dong that doesn't involve nuoc mam (ok if it's cooked w/in the dish).

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  1. Never been to Vien Dong, but I really enjoyed Xanh. The beef dishes were great, esp. the Bò Lúc Lac and the ribs.

    1. Not sure about Vien Dong. I've heard good things about Xanh. But like you, I've never been to either.

      Since you mention Hanoi food (I prefer southern Vietnamese food): Two weeks ago, I (and my extended family, so about 15-18 of us) had dinner at Ha Noi Avenue, and I thought it was great. It's good homestyle food, not fancy stuff. It's not so good it's going to blow your mind (keeping in mind that I think food in Hanoi is a little more bland than food in the south,) but every dish my family had was solid. Their specialty is grilled catfish with turmeric and dill served with bun. I think their catfish bun for two is like $15. Nuoc mam/nuoc cham is served on the side.

      Ha Noi Avenue
      8432 Westminster Blvd, just west of Westminster/Newland

      1. Bun Cha is really good at Vien Dong, that is the only thing I get there....sorry

        Oh they also have this deep fried sweet potato that is good as well

        1. Hi groover808,

          If you're saying your guy doesn't care for the "usual fish sauce dip" then I'd probably go with Xanh. I've enjoyed both for different reasons, but Xanh definitely has some more creative dishes; interesting takes on classics and more. Also a better presentation and ambiance for a date night.

          1. Well, they're very different.

            Xanh is an "A" class restaurant and a great place for a date -- as upscale as Little Saigon gets, linen napkins, décor, a VERY accessible menu (to non-Viet people), gracious service. It's also twice the price of Vien Dong, more or less, but it's still a great deal (our bill for two people is usually in the $40-$50 range for two courses and a shared dessert, no alcohol).

            Vien Dong is a "B"/"C" class restaurant, meaning that you go up to the counter to pay -- English is spoken, sort of (you stand a better chance with the younger waiters, honestly), but it's paper napkins.

            Both places have things that traditionally come with nuoc cham, but there are more non-nuoc cham things at Xanh, like the incredible orange roughy with mango salad, or the ca kho to.

            The bun cha Ha Noi at Vien Dong comes with a papaya-flavoured riff on nuoc cham that's turned into this fantastic thing by the smokiness of the grilled meat floating in it. If your guy doesn't like that either, I suggest the cha ca thanh long (turmeric-marinated catfish with dill) -- unbelievably tasty, and the nuoc cham comes on the side so he can ignore it all he wants.

            Frankly, I love them both... but I'd send you to Xanh because they need the business more than Vien Dong, which has been in Little Saigon for 30+ years.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              I just went to Xanh Bistro tonight, thanks for the recommendations and descriptions. Yes, it is a good place for a date. Very neat, clean, and friendly service. It wasn't too crowded, but we went around 6pm.

              The "Vietnamese Horchata" was a disappointment. It's just soymilk with horchata spices... wish i had read about what was in it beforehand. My date had the bun with egg rolls/chicken which was pretty standard and impossible to screw up. The egg rolls included were not as great as the descriptions I've heard on here. Maybe the appetizer rolls are different? The 5-spice beef was good, but I was expecting something fried, haha :) The meat was very tender and the bitter greens it was served on went well with the dish. We had the chocolate souffle afterwards which was nice -- but I think the hibiscus "tea" was unnecessary and didn't add anything to the layout except filling in the 3rd spot in the 3-compartment plate.

              All in all, its a great place to go on a date -- it gives you some conversation starters with the Horchata shenanigans and "high end" take on vietnamese food.

              1. re: tonicart

                Actually the lauds for "best spring roll" go firmly to Vien Dong.

                I don't like soy milk so I've never had the "horchata", but I love hibiscus tea -- agree, though, that it's unnecessary on the dessert tray.

            2. Thanks for your replies everyone, I will check out Xanh tonight since it's with the guy. I'll take my parents to Vien Dong sometime to grub.

              jaykayen: I'll put Ha Noi Ave on my list to try. Looks like the original owners of Hanoi restaurant left then opened this place. Yelpers seemed to like it better.

              6 Replies
              1. re: groover808

                Xanh was really good. We had the kaboucha soup with shrimp, caramelized fish, and shaking beef (bo luc lac). Everything tasted familiar as far as flavors from my childhood, but slightly different and beautifully executed. The fish was whitefish fillets instead of catfish which I much prefer. The beef was nice and tender and not in a goopy sauce, but rather a light jus of the pan juices and hit of soy sauce. Funny, it came on top of sweet potato fries and my mom used to make a stir fry beef on top of fries every so often when I was growing up.

                Chef came to see how the food was and was really informative. Servers there are very friendly and it's very non-asian friendly as most of the clientele tonight was non-asian. Restaurant was about 60% full, so hopefully they'll make it through the rough times. Can't take the Viet parents here since it's too "expensive" for them, but it's still a steal comparatively for dining out by non-Vietnamese standards.

                1. re: groover808

                  Take the parents to Vien Dong -- it's slightly more than half the price, but you lose the "genteel" atmosphere and some of the non-Asian-friendliness (which won't be a problem for Viet parents).

                  The chef at Xanh (her name is Haley Nguyen, incidentally) is really friendly and a really, really good cook -- that same white fish (it's orange roughy) is what they pan-sear for the mango salad dish (which is my daughter's absolute favourite food in the world).

                  I'm glad you had a good meal -- that place deserves to last, and I'm happy to hear it was 60% full, because it's never been that full when I've gone.

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    I plan to return for the much talked about mango salad dish. Orange roughy is my fave pick when I got to California Fish Grill too. Wow, little Das Ubergeek is like a yearish old right?! Nice that you have her eating good right from the start, I love that!

                    1. re: groover808

                      She'll be 2 soon, actually... but if you put fish sauce (nuoc cham) on something she will just mow it right down! I love that kid.

                      Tell me about California Fish Grill -- I pass it a lot (the one on Chapman in Fullerton is near my church) but I'm always afraid it's going to suck.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        I've only been to the one in Irvine on Culver and Barranca next to Panera. It's actually really good and my go to place for fish. They cook huge fillets of fish (blackened or cajun) with rice or fries for no more than $10/plate. Since they specialize in flame broiled fish, they always get it right, never had it over or undercooked here. In fact, most high end restaurants could learn a thing or two about cooking fish properly here. My faves include the blackened salmon and orange roughy. It has Chipotle-like decor with lots of aluminum and it's pay at the counter and they bring you the food, great fast casual concept. BTW, both their tarter sauces are yummy with the fries.

                  2. re: groover808

                    Hi groover808,

                    Thanks for the report back. It's good to hear how your dining experience went. I'm glad you enjoyed Xanh (and it makes me want to go back again soon :).

                    When you go to Vien Dong, definitely try their crispy eggrolls. They are fabulous. Many thanks to Das Ubergeek for introducing me to both of these great places. :)

                2. love vien dong, its an excellent restaurant

                  here's my review:

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Lau

                    I finally checked out Vien Dong last night and left completely stuffed and happy. It's actually a bit on the nicer side than your prolific Little Saigon hole in the walls, at least with decor. You get a little scalloped edge paper mat and decor is there a bit with 2 flat screen tv's, I was surprised. Anyway, the eggrolls were fantastic with a great crust since they're wrapped in rice paper. Comes with a ton of lettuce and herbs and rice vermicelli noodles! Most places provide eggrolls with lettuce as an appetizer, but you could eat this all together as a meal in itself. I also got the bun cha hanoi which was fabulous and came with lots of meat. The guy got broken rice with pork, which was standard. Next time I'm coming for that dill fish. I think m parents will like the place better than Ha Noi.

                    1. re: groover808

                      The Cha Ca at Vien Dong is very good, but different than in Hanoi. The thing I like about places like Cha Ca La Vuong is that you cook it yourself and they give you a ton of dill to cook down. Plus, they specialize in that one dish. The Bun Cha Ha Noi is also good, but my favorite is at Quan Hop.