>> Golden Deli | Eat the World Los Angeles

Monday, 6 September 2021

Golden Deli

VIETNAM 🇻🇳
Front facade, courtesy of Google Maps

COVID-19 UPDATE: The interior is open for dining, with plastic dividers between tables and masks required while not at the table.

EDITOR'S NOTES: Part of the "Los Angeles Classics" series. The flag of Vietnam is used as a placeholder and not a political statement.

For as long as you have been eating at restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, there has been a crowd out front of Golden Deli waiting to be seated. There is obviously a good reason for this: as fads come and go and the masses move on, Golden Deli was never a fad to begin with and most of their customers come from relatively nearby. And they come often.

Like most Vietnamese restaurants in Southern California, the menu is broad and covers a lot of ground, dishes from the North, Central, and South of Vietnam. There are better places to eat banh mi, bun bo hue, and many other dishes in the San Gabriel Valley and Orange County, but in general everything is prepared to a high standard. Golden Deli is no one hit wonder.

Phần chả giò, plate of 5

At the top of any greatest hits of the restaurant, and certainly on top of every table, is a good portion of their delectable cha gio, pork-filled fried spring rolls (they call them egg rolls in English on the menu) wrapped in rice paper. You can order them as a smaller portion of two, or atop any number of dishes, but a full portion of phan cha gio ($11.50, above) comes with a heaping plate of fresh vegetables and herbs to make wraps and plenty of nuoc cham for dipping.

These cha gio are similar to the delicate beauties you may have come across when in Vietnam (called nem or nem ran in the north of the country), made exclusively with a rice paper wrapper and begging to be eaten immediately. Many (most?) places outside of the country have switched to a wheat flour wrapper to give the rolls a longer shelf life, holding up to delivery and allowing for larger batches to be made instead of fried to order.

Bì cuốn, plate of 2

The problem with coming to Golden Deli is that it is the type of place that will ruin those run-of-the-mill cha gio that you may have been enjoying from other places. It is hard to go back after such pleasure. It is a wonder of the world that never does an imperfect roll come out of the kitchen.

The "springrolls" section at the beginning of the menu is a selection of seven non-fried rolls that are usually called "summer rolls" in English. Those like the bi cuon ($5.25, above) are a selection of meat (this has shredded pork and pork skin) wrapped tightly with lettuce and other vegetables and herbs in rice paper. They are all probably better at the place you already think makes the best, but are enjoyable enough here not to pass over if the craving finds you.

Bún chạo tôm nem nướng chả giò

Bowls of bun, a salad of rice vermicelli noodles and vegetables, are frequently seen on other tables and executed very well here. They are priced by how many toppings you receive on top, so this bun chao tom & nem nuong & cha gio (above) comes out to $13.50 while two items will be $11.25. Either way, there is absolutely no skimping on the meats or rolls, this order upped the table's cha gio ante another two full pieces.

Rice plates are just as nice, like this com bi cha chao tom & suon ($14.50, below) which throws the kitchen sink on rice: A thin pork chop, baked egg casserole, shredded pork skin, and fried shrimp paste. Combined with everything else ordered and shared, plates like this are a way to try a little bit of each.

Com bì chả chạo tôm & sườn

The entire cacophony of sights and sounds, plastic plates and chopsticks and thin metal silverware, phones constantly ringing with orders, and the overall busy nature of Golden Deli give it the feeling of any beloved diner you might frequent. And at its roots this is what it is, the foods are not made beautiful when plated, but you know each component was made just right in the kitchen.

At the end of the meal, when the check shows up before asking for it (Hey, they have people waiting!), you even take it up to the register to close out your tab. Fall into the rhythm, sip that last bit of iced coffee, and catch up with your friends outside or somewhere else.

📍 815 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel, San Gabriel Valley

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