Jul 2009

Viễn Đông Restaurant – Garden Grove

Little Saigon, a sprawling suburban neighborhood in Orange County, is home to the largest population of Vietnamese people outside of Vietnam. While I am familiar with Saigon’s culinary scene, when it comes to its American counterpart, I still have much to learn.

The city’s major arteries of Westminster, Brookhurst, and Bolsa are bustling with businesses hawking everything under the Vietnamese sun: from music to clothing to house wares and of course, food. What’s most notable about the Vietnamese food found in Little Saigon is the regional diversity. The distinct culinary styles of Northern, Central, and Southern Vietnam are well-represented and executed as authentically as America allows.

Growing up an hour and a half south in San Diego, I used to travel to Little Saigon with my grandparents every couple of years to visit their friends who resided in the area. The highlight of these trips for me was the meals we shared at Viễn Đông restaurant. My grandparents always dined here for the Northern Vietnamese fare (mon bac)—specific regional specialties that aren’t in my family’s culinary repertoire.

A recent road trip to San Diego with The Astronomer provided the perfect excuse to revisit Viễn Đông.

Viễn Đông is housed in a clean, spacious, and impressively understated (by Vietnamese standards) space. The restaurant was fairly empty the late Friday afternoon we dined, which meant prompt and pleasant service from start to finish.

I ordered a bowl of bun rieu oc tom moc ($6.75), one of my family’s standbys at Viễn Đông. Even though I’ve been back in America for nearly a year, I still can’t get over how large the portions are at Vietnamese restaurants here. The enormous bowl of bun rieu was filled with hunks of fried tofu, ground crab, vermicelli noodles, meatballs, tomatoes, and periwinkle snails. The orange-tinged broth was hot and sour, just the way I like it.

The bun rieu was served with a plate of garnishes that included bean sprouts, shredded romaine lettuce, a wedge of lime, and mam ruoc (fermented shrimp paste).

The Astronomer’s Cha Ca Thanh Long ($12.95) arrived on a sizzling platter that filled the air with the awesome scent of seared fresh dill. The generous fillet of turmeric-laced catfish was adorned with heaps of onions and scallions.

Everything about this dish was excellent, except that it wasn’t served Hanoi-style—in a pan atop a butane burner. The sizzling platter cooled down too fast, leaving the green and white onions mostly raw.

Accompanying the fish were warm vermicelli noodles, a mountain of fresh herbs, rice crackers, and toasted peanuts.

The perfect bowl of Cha Ca Thanh Long marries all of the ingredients together—a layer of noodles topped with chunks of fish, a smattering of peanuts, shattered rice crackers, an abundance of aromatics, and a drizzle of mam ruoc or nuoc cham.

Our Northern Vietnamese lunch at Viễn Đông left us stuffed to the gills and full of giddy memories from our travels.

Viễn Đông Restaurant
14271 Brookhurst Street
Garden Grove, CA 92843
Phone: 714-531-8253

Previous Post
Next Post

12 thoughts on “Viễn Đông Restaurant – Garden Grove

  1. “bean sprouts”
    Bean sprouts in “bun rieu”…. It has to be “rau muon” with bun rieu.
    uuuuhhhmmmm may be the fusion-style right? Northerners don’t eat bean sprouts as far as I know.

  2. I’ll have to let my mom know about this place. She teaches in Garden Grove, but doesn’t always know which Vietnamese restaurants to try there. (She’s not as adventurous as her only slightly adventurous daughter.)

  3. I’ve been here twice and ordered the same thing twice and I think their bun rieu oc is just ok. I really haven’t found a place that serves bun rieu oc that I truly love but this place wasn’t it. I mean, I don’t find myself craving it so it must not have been that great. It’s ok. Nice photos of the restaurant and food.

  4. Sook – Other than the size of the bowl, Vien Dong makes a standard Vietnamese bun rieu. I could go for a slightly sourer broth, but that’s what the lime wedges are for 😉

    Diana – If mama’s feeling adventurous, she should definitely check Vien Dong out. A good dish for her to try is bun cha.

    Madison – Let me know if you ever find your perfect bun rieu! My fave bun rieu ever is in District 3 Saigon at a place called Thanh Hai.

  5. Hey G – The Missus likes the Banh Tom from Vien Dong, I really, really like the Bun Gia Kay (in spite of the name).

  6. *sigh*
    Pho Le Loi used to make such a WICKED Cha Ca Thanh Long… alas they’ve been closed for nearly a year with no signs of re-opening. Still confused by bac cuisine vs. Hue food tho.

  7. As far as I know, when bún riêu migrated to Southern Vietnam way back then, the garnish vegetables were then added like bean sprout and “rau muống” and some other herbs since Southern Vietnam tends to have a lot of those ready around.
    Also, Northern bún riêu will use “quả sấu” to create the slight tangy taste while Southern will use tamarind and tomato. Finally, a good bowl of bún riêu must have a herb named “kinh giới”, the one in Cha Ca Thanh Long lies beside purple tía tô.

    Anyway, I love your blog ^^

  8. That looks so good. My office is always over-airconditioned which makes me crave hot soup. Now I’m craving spicy sour seafood noodle soup…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *