Vietnamese Snails and Seafood Hot Pot at Oc & Lau - Garden Grove
On Christmas Day, I had lunch at Oc & Lau in Garden Grove. It's a relatively new place, and on Yelp there are a lot of complaints about the service. I can't say, unfortunately, that I saw any improvements on that front on Christmas. They were understaffed, and even though we were seated immediately when we arrived, we didn't get any of our food for an hour (!!) They apologized, and plenty of other tables were waiting a long time too, but it was a bit ridiculous. They clearly have some things to work out. But once the food finally came, it was actually really really good.
Strawberry lemonade was fine but nothing special. Even *this* took about 35 minutes to come to the table. We had to remind them we had ordered it.
Snails in garlic and butter were excellent. They're served w/ a bright green dipping sauce (made w/ condensed milk for sweetness) and some salt and pepper for dipping, but the snails didn't really need either, since the garlic sauce was so tasty (plus the herbs that came with it).
Razor clams came cooked in a similar sauce, along w/ various herbs. Really delicious.
Smaller snails in coconut curry and basil were interesting, but my friends informed me that this wasn't the greatest version of this dish. I found the sauce overly sweet—like a super sweet but not that spicy Thai red curry. The snails were little.
Seafood hot pot came to the table in a pot w/ pieces of eggplant already in it, and we added a plate of seafood (squid, shrimp, catfish, shellfish, and more stuffed eggplant) to the broth. We also added veggies (cabbage, banana blossom, bean sprouts, and a bitter veggie with small leaves which I don't know how to say). In my individual bowl, I put in some already-cooked noodles, a bit of tamarind sauce, and a squeeze of lime, then added in the seafood and broth from the hotpot. Lots of lemongrass flavor in the soup, which was overall mild and really nice. The flavor profile reminded me of Cambodian food, which makes sense since I was told this dish comes from the southern-most part of Vietnam.
On the whole, I think this place is definitely worth a try, provided that you're in no rush. If you plan on having a relaxed 3 hour meal there, you'll probably wind up very happy. Definitely a spot to check out if you're a snail lover, too.