Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant - San Gabriel

I will drive quite a distance simply to eat good food. If I want really good Vietnamese food, I go to Little Saigon. If I want really good Chinese food, I head to the San Gabriel Valley.

Golden Deli - San Gabriel 6

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.

Golden Deli - San Gabriel 1

The Hu Tieu (Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup with Shrimp and Pork) featured a crab claw.

Golden Deli - San Gabriel 2

And they used the right kind of hu tieu noodles, the translucent, chewy kind.

Golden Deli - San Gabriel 3

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.).

Golden Deli - San Gabriel 4

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.

Golden Deli - San Gabriel 5

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.
Closed Wednesdays
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.
Cash Only


  1. Just one more hour for lunch and I have to read this and the pictures. So Yummy even if it wasn't that great.

  2. Hi, I love pho too. Those that are light, and full of meat and tripe.

  3. You write so much about Vietnamese food that I initially thought you were a Vietnamese!

  4. Hi Tigerfish,
    Who doesn't love pho? :)

    Sim Cooks,
    I am VNese. :)

  5. I work right next to little Saigon. Having a lot of fun eating *everything*.


    - Chubbypanda

  6. CP,
    Have you tried Com Tam Tran Quy Cap yet? You should.

  7. WC, golden deli is definitely a SGV favorite, as people in Little Saigon have their favorites. When I was in college, I ate in LS all the time - pho is good there, but I don't go down there as often anymore since I moved back to LA. As for cha gio, i've never tried it with crab. good?

  8. Hi EDNBM,
    Yeah, I didn't want to completely knock Golden Deli b/c it's not bad food. And it is a favorite with many people that's why I linked to your post about them.

    As for cha gio, crab or shrimp, makes it much better than just pork alone. :)

  9. Hi Wandering Chopsticks,

    Hi Five!!

    I really never understood why people would say this is the best place in town for pho. I'm not even joking. I think Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly had brainwashed tons of people into thinking this place is it. He actually defended this place time after time as the place to go for pho. Frankly, I don't think he had tried other places in SGV or Westminster for a fair comparison. I'm still mad that he thinks 101 Noodle Express in Alhambra is the best for beef roll.

    Just the fact that his readers read his weekly column and then used his "Essential 99" list as a guide for Asian foodie trek as a reference, it mystified me on why this is the only place for pho. I'm serious, they try it once based on what he said and continue to go there time and time again.

    That's why I don't try to read Chowhound board for dumpling places either. Everyone is always regurgitating the same list over and over again. Just like Golden Deli and 101 Noodle Express are the benefits of that list.

  10. Pepsi Monster,
    I think everyone has their favorites, and honestly, it's not bad food. I just don't think it's worth all of the hype. People act like eating here is some transcendent experience. I much prefer Vietnam Restaurant (not to be confused with Vietnam House across the street). I think the flavors are just "brighter" at Vietnam Restaurant.

  11. Hey Wandering Chopsticks,

    Wow! You too? Yeah, I also much prefer the Vietnam Restaurant than at Golden Deli. GD is not bad, but it's not "THE" place to go for pho like it was being suggested.

    OK, here's a toughie for you. Between GD and Pho Pasteur (which you thought it was OK), which of these two would you rather go?

  12. Pepsi Monster,
    Haha. Neither. If I'm specifically craving pho in SGV, I usually head to Pho Huynh or Pho Filet. Tried Pho Superbowl today. It was OK, but by the end of my bowl, the grayish-brown water kinda turned me off. And their superbowl size isn't that large, it's the same as the regular size bowl at Pho Filet.

  13. WC, from reading your blogs, I can tell that you know what good food should taste like. Golden Deli is okay, decent. I do not care to return.

    For the real thing, Ha Noi Avenue (Pho Ha Noi) in Westminster Blvd at Newland in Westminster city, has nem ran cua be (spring roll with crab meat) prepare the Ha Noi way. It is big (rectangular bar shape), and must be cut into bite size piece when served. This is the first restaurant that prepares this dish authentically. And it is good. I know it is authentic because my mom came from Ha Noi. She often complained that no one outside of Ha Noi knew how to prepare this dish. I took her there for lunch and she approved.

  14. LT,
    Yeah, I don't get the love. It's not bad, just not worth waiting in line for me when there are so many other options nearby. I've seen Ha Noi Avenue and wondered if it was any good. Great to know! I'll have to check it out. I've had nem ran cua be in Ha Noi and it was served in small bite-sized pieces so I think it's like with many Vietnamese recipes, they vary by family.


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