The majority of this day was spent doing Vietnamese stuff in Little Saigon (Westminster/Santa Ana).
- Brodard Chateau (Little Saigon)
- Thach Che Hien Khanh (Little Saigon)
- Asian Garden Mall (Little Saigon)
Cut to the chase: Brodard Chateau sucked.
This is their attempt at doing higher-end Vietnamese food with French influences.
I can’t see how they can claim “authentic” when they shove a bunch of French stuff on the menu like Fish en Papillote.
They’re famous for their “spring rolls”. These are actually SALAD ROLLS (or as other places call them “summer rolls”). It’s mega-confusing how they insist on calling these spring rolls when they’re NOT deep fried. Goi cuon is a SALAD ROLL. End of story!
Rack of Lamb with Mashed Potatoes in a Vietnamese restaurant??
The entrees marked with a “B” symbol are their “specialties”. I ordered a Shaken Beef (Bo Luc Lac). It’s one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes but it’s hardly ever done right. The best rendition I’ve ever had was at Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen in Portland (I wrote about it at the bottom of this post). We’ll see how this version measures up.
Two orders of shrimp salad rolls on the left, and two orders of pork salad rolls on the right.
The grilled pork one is actually that nem nuong Vietnamese pork sausage patty. These were fine but they were much better and cheaper at Summer Rolls in Rosemead.
And this is the shrimp cake version. It’s a typical attempt at higher-end cuisine: make worse food but plate it nicer and charge more.
One of my relatives got a pho.
Weird thing is that they serve the pho with a pesto garlic bread?! WTF? The waiter said to dip it in the soup.
Shaken Beef (Bo Luc Lac). Filet mignon with mushrooms and onions in a garlic ginger soy sauce.
This plain sucked. A poor version of Shaken Beef. They used tenderizer on the meat, so it’s like that syrupy red beef dish you get at Chinese banquets where the meat is super tender and mushy. It’s a freakin’ insult to real Bo Luc Lac!
Just for comparison, here’s a photo of REAL Bo Luc Lac from Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen in Portland:
No tenderizer or stupid sauce on the meat, tomatoey fried rice on the side, and served with black pepper and lime dip. I dunno what Brodard Chateau did to turn this dish into that dish, but whatever it was, it wasn’t authentic nor was it French.
We rolled the dice one more time and got the “Tempura Soft-Shell Crab” version of the salad rolls.
The veggie fillings were bland, tasteless and indistinct. The deep frying on the soft-shell crab was horribly greasy, oozing oil with every bite. It’s fried, but it ain’t no “tempura”.
The house special crab sauce that goes with the above dish. Didn’t help.
Wicca’s Pennywort Float. This was actually pretty good, with a fresh pennywort flavour. But they really cheaped out on the low quality ice cream.
Brodard Chateau was a recommendation from a relative but it was easily the worst meal of our trip. But it can’t all be good without some bad to contrast with it, right? Sigh…
Thach Che Hien Khanh
Wicca’s favourite place on Earth, Thach Che Hien Khanh in Westminster (Little Saigon).
They’re a deli that specializes in Vietnamese desserts. It’s always busy here. You line up on the right side and go down the line, pointing out stuff to the staff that you want to buy.
Business is really brisk here, so all this stuff tastes pretty fresh.
I saw a bit of fried things at the back, so it’s not all sweet stuff.
Hey, it’s Asian food lover Wicca here to comment on all these sweet Vietnamese treats!
These were chewy tapioca “dumplings” with a smooth mung bean paste filling. I couldn’t detect any pandan flavour but appreciated the sesame seeds and fresh grated coconut on top.
I’d never seen these before but they were a variation of tapioca dumplings stuffed with mung bean paste and covered in a dry mung bean crumble. Very filling and most likely to be appreciated by mung bean lovers…obviously.
Tapioca pearl dumplings that come either with a taro paste filling or a banana filling. Guess which one I chose? (To be revealed shortly). Served in a rich, sweet-balanced-with-a-touch-of-salty coconut milk sauce.
This was my favourite by far! A deluxe Vietnamese chè (dessert soup) with banana, cassava, and delightfully chewy tapioca jellies (those green chunks and clear long strips) sitting in a thick pool of rich coconut milk.
The bananas tasted sweet and their heightened aroma made me wonder whether they were different from the bananas found in supermarkets here. The other mushy white chunks may not look appetizing but they were soft, unctuous pillows of cassava (khoai mi) that left me in a drunken dessert stupor.
Aahh…here we go with that tapioca pearl dumpling. Of course I picked the one with the lovely purple taro paste in the centre! Creamy smooth taro interior encased in a chewy tapioca exterior. Add the silky coconut milk and I’m in heaven. It’s all about texture, baby! (…and taste but that’s a given.)
A cross-section of the mung bean deluxe dumpling. Like I said, very filling but I made room for it in my greedy belly.
I bought this thinking it was chè bắp (corn pudding) but my mom told me it was “bắp hầm” which literally means “simmered corn”, not to be confused with xôi bắp (corn and sticky rice). (I’ve probably just alienated all those who didn’t grow up eating this stuff.) This tasted surprisingly light, not too sweet or rich in coconut milk and the chewy white corn kernels reminded me of the huge white corn kernels (hominy) found in Mexican soup (pozole). In fact, as I passed through security at LAX with this dessert, the Hispanic security staff popped the lid open and immediately asked me where I got it from… LOL!
Somebody needs to cut me off…
[I cut her off. – Dennis] “Imma let you finish!”
Needless to say, Thach Che Hien Khanh comes highly recommended for Vietnamese dessert fanatics.
Asian Garden Mall
After the Vietnamese dessert place, our relatives brought us to this Vietnamese mall in Westminster, Asian Garden Mall. The mall specializes in jewellery, but we were there to check out the food and maybe find a snack.
In the centre of the mall is a medium-sized food court with about 8 Vietnamese vendors selling what at first glance appears to be all the same range of Vietnamese dishes. But if you look closely, you’ll see subtle differences between the vendors.
Balut (duck fetus) eggs.
One of the stalls sold six different kinds of snails!
I didn’t know such variety of snails existed!
These were some of the bigger ones.
Wicca came here to find sugar cane juice.
This place looked like the best one. They add calamansi to the sugar cane. I always chuckle at how they’re always squeezing the shit out of the sugar cane, running it through the machine multiple times to get every last drop of juice.
Wicca’s sugar cane juice with calamansi. Fresh, sweet and delicious! It’s a rare treat that’s next to impossible to find in Vancouver.
Speaking of impossible to find, this stuff is hard to find even in LA! You HAVE TO travel to Westminster/Little Saigon to get this stuff.
Straight-up hardcore Vietnamese pickled fruit snacks that you dip in salt & chili. The larger ones are Amberella (Trái Cóc) and the smaller ones are called Malay Gooseberry (Chùm Ruột) even though they’re not related to the typical gooseberry that you might know. Wicca bought prepackaged ones once and I hated them. These fresher ones tasted SO much better and even *I* enjoyed them cuz I usually don’t go for snacks like this. A little bit sweet, a little bit sour, a little bit spicy, and above all a delicious crunchy texture.
More hardcore Vietnamese pickled fruit snacks: Pickled Mango (xoai) with chili. Again, I usually feel slight revulsion at these snacks but this time it was soooo good! I think the freshness is the key…if it gets too far, I don’t like it. These were great!
Dipping the Amberella into the chili salt mixture.
Last of the hardcore Vietnamese snacks: snails/escargots (ốc).
You extract the snail from the shell and dip it in the fish sauce. Pretty good! I like them when they’re crunchy, not rubbery and hard. You don’t eat that hard wafer bit on the end of the snail.
Asian Garden Mall wasn’t part of our original itinerary but it was my favourite part of this all-Vietnamese day!