Sometimes, when the stars are aligned just right, The Astronomer and I manage to pull off dinner in Little Saigon. We’ve attempted to dine here on our drive back from San Diego numerous times, but due to fatigue, traffic, or a combination of both, we’ve only done so successfully twice. [We ate at Vien Dong Restaurant on our first visit together.]
While Los Angeles’ Vietnamese restaurants have somewhat lost their luster for me, Little Saigon’s novelty is still intact. On our second trip to the motherland (V 2.0), we dropped into Brodard Restaurant in Garden Grove.
Brodard was unbelievably bumpin’ this Sunday night. Every seat in the house was occupied, while the wait list seemed to go on and on. Not to mention that the take-out counter was doing some brisk business. After waiting for thirty minutes, The Astronomer and I scored a table fit for four. It was finally time to taste Brodard’s famous nem nuong cuon.
Brodard’s decor strikes a balance between modern and cheesy, like only a Vietnamese-American restaurant can. I liked the modern furnishings and clean lines, but couldn’t embrace the mural of stallions galloping along the shore.
The floral arrangement protruding from the opposite wall was awesomely tacky as well. Sadly, there was no sign of a Vietnam-shaped clock, my favorite dining room accent of all.
After spending two hours in traffic, I was downright parched and killed my slightly sweetened soy milk (sua dau nanh) in thirty seconds flat. It really hit the spot.
Soon after, our dishes started coming out of the kitchen. The Astronomer ordered the goi du du kho bo, gan chay ($5.75), one of his all-time favorite salads. It consisted of shredded green papaya topped with house made beef jerky and smoked pork liver jerky. Vietnamese coriander (rau ram), crushed peanuts, and a spicy dressing added the finishing touches.
The beef jerky, dressing, and papaya were delightfully fresh and familiarly flavored. The pork liver jerky tasted quite intense and proved to be an interesting addition to the salad.
I ordered a bowl of banh canh tom cua ($8.50) because I was in a noodle slurping mood. My thick rice noodles were adorned with plenty of shrimp, fish cakes, slices of pork, fresh crab meat, and seafood meatballs. They were garnished with chopped green onions and cilantro.
The broth was seasoned just right and tasty till the last drop. I never loved banh canh very much as a kid, but the slippery noodles and gelatinous soup have grown on me over the past few years. All that was missing was a porky trotter for me to naw on.
The star of the Brodard show was the last to arrive at the table—nem nuong cuon ($6). Each roll was tightly wrapped and filled with nem nuong (grilled pork forcemeat), lettuce, cucumber, carrot, daikon, and mint. I loved how taut the rice paper felt, like a freshly Botoxed spring roll.
All of the excitement surrounding Bordard’s nem nuong cuon seems to center around the satay-style peanut dipping sauce with crumbles of ground pork served with it. I found the sauce too sweet, and its consistency goopy and off-putting. What I liked best about the spring rolls were the bits of fried egg roll wrappers in the center. The crunch was unexpected and satisfying. I’ve never experienced anything like it in Vietnamese cuisine.
The Astronomer and I stumbled out of Brodard stuffed to the brim and with leftovers in hand. We hope to return again the next time traffic is on our side.
9892 Westminster Ave
Garden Grove, California 92844