Nov 2012

Hoàn Kiếm – Los Angeles (Chinatown)

Hoan Kiem - Chinatown - Los Angeles

Named after Hanoi’s misty and mystical “Sword Lake,” Hoàn Kiếm in Chinatown serves just three dishes on weekdays and four on weekends. While the kitchen’s repertoire might seem limited, the menu has actually doubled in size since the Ho family first opened the restaurant in 1989.

The proprietors, who hail from Halong Bay, a city more famous for its limestone karsts and isles than its cuisine, draw upon family recipes that have been passed down for several generations in executing each of their specialties.

Hoan Kiem - Chinatown - Los Angeles

Most popular here is the banh cuon, steamed crepes filled with seasoned ground pork and Woodear mushrooms. Its texture was chewier than the banh cuon I’ve sampled in Saigon, Hanoi, and Grandma’s house, which signaled more tapioca starch and less rice flour in the batter. While The Astronomer and I weren’t gaga about the texture, we were both pretty stoked to try a new rendition of a beloved dish.

Hoan Kiem - Chinatown - Los Angeles

The nuoc cham (fish sauce vinaigrette) served alongside, as well as the slices of pork loaf and fried shallots, were wholly familiar. A dab of chili sauce from the condiments made everything taste even better.

Hoan Kiem - Chinatown - Los Angeles

The pho ga (chicken noodle soup) was a soothing brew of clear broth and rice noodles. Chopped cilantro, thinly sliced onions, and a few shakes of pure fish sauce were the only garnishes this pristinely made bowl needed. I’m usually more of a pho bo kind of girl, but this bowl was totally beautiful.

I’ve got a thing for concise and focused menus, especially of the Vietnamese variety, so Hoàn Kiếm scores major points for keeping things short and sweet and delightful.

Hoàn Kiếm *CLOSED*
727 North Broadway #130
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: 213-617-3650

One year ago: Phở Hòa Pasteur: Phenomenally Phamous Phở
Two years ago: The Luggage Room Pizzeria – Pasadena
Three years ago: Rio Brazil Cafe – Los Angeles (Palms)
Four years ago: Yum Cha Cafe – San Gabriel
Five years ago: Bánh Xèo 46A – Ho Chi Minh City
Six years ago: Freddy’s Mexican Restaurant – San Antonio

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7 thoughts on “Hoàn Kiếm – Los Angeles (Chinatown)

  1. That place used to be even better before the management change. You used to be able to order the pho ga with the gizzards, which included eggs that had not been formed with a shell. Have you tried the pho ga at Bac Ninh off Mission in Rosemead? I think that place makes a really mean bowl of pho ga. They also use the fresh noodle as opposed to the pho stick noodle, which I think should be a requirement for all places that serve pho ga.

  2. NWF – You’re making me hungry with all this talk of gizzards and unformed eggs! And thank you for the Bac Ninh tip. I will definitely hit it up the next time I’m in the mood for clucky pho.

  3. You’re welcome! I’ll keep an eye out for your post on Bac Ninh. They don’t do the unformed eggs (at least they haven’t the few times I’ve been there and asked. It’s all based off of their supply), but definitely have some good gizzards. My mom is a fan of their banh cuon, but I think it needs more filling. Not sure about their other dishes.

  4. Hoàn Kiếm — one of my favorites! I’ve always thought of it as one of the best examples of Pho Ga in the city. If it can’t fix what ails you, I don’t know what will!

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