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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Vietnam Restaurant - San Gabriel

So last summer, cousin Q's older brother's college friend (He was one of the groomsmen in the wedding.) was in town with his girlfriend, whose sister also joined us. Then there was me, my brother, cousin Q, and the younger '88's oldest brother.

Vietnam Vietnamese Restaurant - San Gabriel 1

Do I need to explain again? Vietnam Restaurant, although the business card and menu say Vietnam Vietnamese Restaurant, which seems a bit redundant to me, is owned by Michael, who used to own Vietnam House Restaurant. After he and his wife left, the quality of Vietnam House tipped slightly downward. His nephew owns Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant. His sister owns Saigon Flavor. I haven't tried Saigon Flavor yet, and you know I think Golden Deli is good, but not worth all the hype. My favorite out of all of them is Vietnam Restaurant. The prices and menus are similar. (Only Vietnam and Vietnam House feature 7 courses of beef.) But the flavors and presentation appear to be a bit "brighter" here.

We sat in the front area, which is smaller than the side room.

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I ordered a Thai iced tea for $1.75. My cousin's friend's girlfriend's sister ordered the Ca Phe Sua Da (Vietnamese Milk Coffee Iced) for $1.75.

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The funny thing is that she had never seen it prepared with a Vietnamese coffee filter before. It had always come out prepared, iced, in a to-go cup.

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So we had to show her how to wait for the coffee to drip, stir to mix up the coffee with the condensed milk, and then pour it over the ice. All of which her sister found so funny that she had to photograph it. Hmm. Maybe that's not funny to you, but in case there's any readers who are still unclear...

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They ordered Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup). I haven't actually tried the pho here so I can't vouch for it, but they liked it. Almost all the dishes are in the $5 to $7 range so I won't bother listing the prices individually.

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One of my cousins ordered the Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Pork and Egg Rolls).

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This is just another variation of the above but on rice and with Chao Tom (Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp Paste Wrapped Around Sugarcane). While the food is good, my main complaint with their chao tom is that it doesn't come out on sugarcane. The shrimp paste lacks the extra flavor that comes from having sugarcane juices drip into the meat when it's grilled.

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Another variation of the rice plate with omelet, shredded pork skin, and grilled meat.

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I ordered the banh canh cua (Vietnamese udon-like noodles with crab). This was actually quite flavorful. I'm always a skeptic because nothing is as good as homemade. Since, in my family, we make our own noodles and use lots of crab. Still better than I expected.

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Can't remember which version I had, there's actually 10 variations with or without shrimp and pig's feet. I ordered whichever version the waiter said was best. I wonder if the pig's feet is a Southern thing? I've only seen it in Saigon.

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Bi cuon (Vietnamese shredded pork skin salad rolls) for $3.25. These were really quite large and my cousin's friend could only finish one.

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I took the other home so I could show you what the inside looks like.

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The chao tom again but with banh hoi (Vietnamese steamed rice vermicelli noodle sheets).

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Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls) comes with a platter of herbs and lettuce. The wrappers are Vietnamese rice paper to give that chewy, crispy skin that I love.

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One night I was craving bun rieu oc (Vietnamese crab and shrimp paste rice vermicelli noodles with periwinkles) so I got an order to go. The noodles and periwinkles were in a separate container from the broth, with a bag of herbs on the side.

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After pouring everything out, I ended up with a really large bowl. The broth was a little more tomato-y than I prefer, but it totally satisfied my craving. The nicest part is that even for to-go orders, the food is ready in about 5 minutes.

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A close-up of all the periwinkle meat.

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Che suong sa hot luu (Vietnamese dessert soup with mixed jello and "pomegranate seeds") for $2.

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In the San Gabriel Valley, Vietnam Restaurant has been my to-go spot for general Vietnamese dining. Michael is super nice and service has always been excellent. For non-Vietnamese, he's been very accommodating about describing and explaining how to eat various dishes.

For the 7 courses of beef special, see my post Vietnam Restaurant (Bo 7 Mon (7 Courses of Beef)) - San Gabriel.

Also on Main St./Las Tunas Dr.:
Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel
Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant - San Gabriel
Luscious Dumplings Inc. - San Gabriel
Pho Super Bowl Vietnamese Cuisine - Alhambra
Vietnam House Restaurant - San Gabriel

Vietnam Restaurant
340 W. Las Tunas Dr.
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Monday to Wednesday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Closed Thursdays
Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

1 year ago today, chicken karaage (Japanese fried chicken).
2 years ago today, I ruminated upon how I never realized how rice paper can seem so complicated if you're not Vietnamese and offered up my recipe for goi cuon (Vietnamese salad rolls).



  1. This place looks really good! The food looks very fresh and clean. I need to visit it someday :).

  2. I don't think I've ever had bun rieu oc. Might have to try it when I visit this restaurant -- looks really good, WC!

  3. Haven't tried this place yet, but it looks good! I thought the cafe sua da story was quite funny.

  4. ETE,
    This is my go-to spot for VNese right now in the SGV. You should try it.

    Never had bun rieu oc? How is that possible? It's so good.

    Yay! Someone laughed. ;) But I think it's one of those things that's only funny if you're VNese. :)


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