In the mood for Northern Vietnamese fare, The Astronomer and I, along with our friend Courtney, headed to San Gabriel’s Phở Ngoon for lunch. The newish restaurant, which is located in the same plaza as Boston Lobster, offered a lovely change of pace from the Central and Southern Vietnamese cuisine that we tend to favor.
Upon arriving at the modernly appointed restaurant, we were seated promptly and presented with menus. The one-page bill of fare was awesomely concise, consisting of just three starters and ten mains. We shared five dishes between the three of us.
First up was an order of pho cuon ($3.50), a dish that was super-trendy in Hanoi circa 2008 when The Astronomer and I lived in Vietnam. Comprised of thin rice noodle sheets wrapped around lettuce leaves, grilled beef, and fresh mint, the pho cuon was served with nuoc cham for dipping.
While I didn’t care too much for this dish in Hanoi, I quite liked Pho Ngoon’s more robust rendition.
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A recent girls’ night out brought me and my gal pals to San Gabriel’s Phong Dinh Restaurant. I’m not sure what constitutes a roaring good time for you and yours, but for me and mine, it’s a killer baked catfish. I roll with the best posse ever.
Thien An in Rosemead has always been my go-to spot for baked catfish, but we decided to try Phong Dinh this evening at the recommendation of my friend Thien. She promised that the catfish here was even better than the one at Thien An.
According to the restaurant’s menu, Chef and Founder Minh Trang was the first to introduce baked catfish (ca dut lo hau giang) to the area in 1994.
Before the star of the show arrived, accoutrements were scattered about the table—a large platter of herbs and lettuce, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber spears, vermicelli rice noodles, rice papers, and best of all, a tangy-sweet tamarind dipping sauce.
Our waitress revealed that the recipe for the sauce came from her aunt, who hails from Can Tho. Now that I’ve experienced this seriously awesome sauce, I can’t ever go back to eating plain ol’ nuoc cham or mam nem (fermented anchovy dipping sauce) with my catfish. Consider me a changed woman.
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Since June goes to bed before the sun sets these days, The Astronomer and I celebrated our anniversary over lunch rather than dinner this year. Not quite in the mood for a fancy kind of fete, we headed to Honey Badger Noodle Shop in Alhambra for a casual, noodle-centric meal. The couple that slurps together, stays together.
I first visited Honey Badger last October with Louise. While the food we tasted was very good, it arrived painfully slowly. Not to mention, nearly half the menu was unavailable for one reason or another.
Fortunately, the restaurant was firing on all cylinders when I lunched here with The Astronomer. Service, pacing, and food were all on point.
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After downing our doughnuts and fried chicken at SideCar Merchants, our band of merry eaters strolled down to Nomad Donuts for more deep-fried goodness. We found the shop on a quieter stretch of 30th Street in North Park, flanked on one side by a purveyor of grindz and on the other by an upholstery specialist.
We happened to swing by during Donut Happy Hour, which meant that all wares were marked down to $2. You bet your boots we took full advantage of the situation.
Nomad’s yeast-risen and cake doughnuts are “globally inspired,” boasting made-from-scratch fillings, glazes, and toppings that are playful and inventive. The daily offerings were prettily propped atop stacks of old books, which made the task of choosing which ones to buy quite difficult since they all looked so good.
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