So I've always been a little mystified by the popularity of Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant in San Gabriel. I've eaten there several times throughout the years and have never been bowled over by any of their dishes. The food is good, just not better than what I can get in Little Saigon. And certainly not worth the crowds and wait times. But evidently the restaurant has become increasingly successful through the years. They used to close for two weeks a year, now they shut down for the whole month of August.
But I recently had an out of town visitor who was craving Vietnamese food. Since we were planning to do other things in L.A., it wasn't practical to go to Little Saigon just to satisfy her Vietnamese food craving. So off to Golden Deli we went.
Golden Deli only has about two dozen tables so during mealtimes, be prepared to wait. During our half-hour wait, my Chinese-Vietnamese friend repeatedly speculated about how good could the food could be because he didn't seem to see any Vietnamese people. And yes, he too opts to go to Little Saigon to eat Vietnamese food. And then the nem nuong cuon incident happened.
Now, could someone who clearly didn't even know how to wrap rice paper, thereby indicating no familiarity with Vietnamese food, really be qualified to say how great Golden Deli is? I'm pretty much guessing that fans of the restaurant either haven't been to Little Saigon, or don't know where to go to get good eats.
The Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) was nice and light, not greasy, with lots of meat and tripe, but a bit bland.
The Hu Tieu (Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup with Shrimp and Pork) featured a crab claw.
And they used the right kind of hu tieu noodles, the translucent, chewy kind.
My com tam suon nem nuong (Vietnamese broken rice with pork chop and grilled pork patty) was OK. The broken rice was good, the pork chop was dry and hard, the grilled pork patty was not grilled at all but deep fried and puny. Nem Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patties) is my regional specialty, so when it's prepared all wrong, I get all bent out of shape. Of course, if I just wanted broken rice, I go to Da Nang Com Tam Tran Quy Cap in Little Saigon, or in the San Gabriel Valley, go to Com Tam Thuan Kieu - San Gabriel (Valley Blvd.).
The Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls) were nicely crispy and flavorful but seemed to only have pork as the meat filling. I couldn't taste any shrimp or crab, hallmarks of a truly great cha gio.
My out of town visitor was happy just to have Vietnamese food again. But that's because there's not quite the same selection in Wisconsin. My Chinese-Vietnamese friend says he'll stick with Little Saigon.
Dishes are in the $5 to $6 range.
Also along the Main St./Las Tunas Dr. corridor:
Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel
Luscious Dumplings Inc. - San Gabriel
Pho Super Bowl Vietnamese Cuisine - Alhambra
Vietnam House Restaurant - San Gabriel
Vietnam Restaurant - San Gabriel
Vietnam Restaurant (Bo 7 Mon (7 Courses of Beef)) - San Gabriel
Who else ate at Golden Deli? In all fairness, not everyone feels the same way I do about Golden Deli. Dylan of Eat, Drink & Be Merry is a really big fan.
Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant
815 W. Las Tunas Dr.
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Monday to Thursday 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.