But let's backtrack to August 2008, shortly after it opened, when my friend DP took me to dine here. Xanh Bistro is opened by Haley Nguyen, who teaches at the food and nutrition department at Saddleback Community College and before at the Art Institute of California. She's often quoted in the Orange County Register for her knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine and culinary tours of Little Saigon.
I loved the decor and the little details -- the cupboard in the back, the artful chairs, the flowers in bud vases, and the green and blue pottery. After all, xanh is the Vietnamese word for both green and blue.
I love these snapshots of the decor.
Orchid in bud vase still life.
We ordered com chay thit nuong (Vietnamese crispy rice with grilled pork), $5.50.
Close-up of the crispy rice pieces. Despite being fried, the rice wasn't greasy at all, just light and crunchy.
Ech chien ot (Vietnamese fried frog legs with basil chile sauce), $7.50.
Lightly battered, crispy, meaty. Love frog legs.
Khoai lang chien (Vietnamese yam fries with chili aioli), $5.50. While I love sweet potatoes, I thought these were just OK, nothing special like the first two dishes.
Bo tai rau muong (Vietnamese seared beef and water spinach salad), $11.95. Basically, Bo Tai Chanh (Vietnamese Beef Carpaccio) served on a bed of water spinach. A bit pricey, but it was so good that it inspired me to make my own version, Xa Lach Thit Bo Rau Muong (Vietnamese Steak and Water Spinach Salad).
That was a lot of food! But it's good when I have friends who are supportive of the blog. DP insisted we order a variety to showcase what the restaurant has to offer. So we had to get dessert too.
I got the banh creme brulee dua (Vietnamese coconut creme brulee), $6. Lovely hard sugar shell and creamy inside.
DP ordered the banh sau rieng (Vietnamese durian parfait with pineapple puree), $7.
Look how artfully it's made. While I don't like fresh durian, I love it when made into desserts. This was light, not too overpowering, but with enough durian flavor to please durian lovers.
The Star Performing Arts Center next was still under construction when we first visited so hopefully that would bring in some more traffic because as lovely as the space and food are, there were few customers.
Unfortunately, I visited several times afterward and the restaurant was still sparsely occupied each time. The next visit was with the SinoSouls after dinner at Quan Vy Da Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon).
I like trying out other restaurants and grabbing dessert afterward at Xanh Bistro. Because, let's face it, besides che (Vietnamese pudding), there aren't a lot of dessert options.
More flower still lifes.
Plus, it's just a nice, soothing environment to linger over complimentary Tra Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Tea) and something sweet.
This time, I opted to try the sticky rice and mocha mousse with spicy chocolate sauce, $7. Artful presentation. I like the banana chip on top. The chocolate ganache had a nice kick of chile pepper, without being too overwhelming. It did taste like chocolate atop sticky rice, but I was fine with that.
The coconut creme brulee got a little more artful too, presented on a straw plate.
And of course, we also ordered the durian parfait.
Service has always been very nice here. On the evening after dining at Nhu Y 8 Courses of Fish, we got there just as the restaurant closed. They opened up for us anyway, even though we said we were just there for dessert. Beyond the usual, that visit, other people at the table also ordered bread pudding with coconut tamarind sauce, $6, and chocolate molten cake with ginger ice cream and hibiscus tea, $7.
It's a shame that the restaurant never really got busy, even though I could tell there was care taken with the presentation and the food.
June 9, 2012 Update: The restaurant is now closed while the owner scouts out a new location and hopes to reopen.
Other Little Saigon restaurants:
Brodard Chateau Vietnamese Cuisine - Garden Grove (Little Saigon)
Brodard Restaurant - Garden Grove (Little Saigon)
Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Nhu Y Ca 8 Mon (8 Courses of Fish) Restaurant - Fountain Valley (Little Saigon)
Pagolac Restaurant Bo 7 Mon (7 Courses of Beef) - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Pho Thang Long Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Quan Hy Vietnamese Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Quan Vy Da Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Saigon Bistro - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Vien Dong Restaurant - Garden Grove (Little Saigon)
16161 Brookhurst St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Lunch 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Dinner 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
1 year ago today, Sichuan Green Beans.
2 years ago today, I ate what? 2007 eating out round-up.
3 years ago today, Sirens Valley wine caves in Hungary.