>> Góc Hà Nội/Ha Noi Corner Restaurant & Tea House | Eat the World Los Angeles

Friday 12 August 2022

Góc Hà Nội/Ha Noi Corner Restaurant & Tea House

Restaurant facade

🅿️ Ample parking in plaza.
🥤 No Alcohol.

While not quite ignored, the bounty of foods from Northern Vietnam have usually been quite a bit harder to locate in Orange County's Little Saigon than the foods from the south and center of the country. There may have been northern-style phở or a few dishes thrown onto the standard menus, but specialists are much more recent. As more and more time passes since the American War (Kháng chiến chống Mỹ) and generations of children born to Vietnamese parents in California look over to the flourishing nation Vietnam has become since kicking out the imperialists, Little Saigon keeps getting better and better.

Góc Hà Nội (Ha Noi Corner) claims to be originally from Hanoi, another franchise in the growing list of places making the hop over the Pacific to set up in Orange County. There are indeed many places in Vietnam's capital city with names similar to this, but even if it is an exaggeration, Garden Grove is better for having them and Brookhurst Street from just south of the 5 in Anaheim all the way to the 405 in Fountain Valley proves itself once again as one of the greatest avenues for global feasts.

Oc huong bong / Ốc hương bông sốt me (Sweet snails in tamarind sauce)

The seafood selections may not be as plentiful on the focused menu than they may be in Hanoi, but do not let this detract you from ordering some of their specialties. Joining garlic butter and black pepper versions of snails on the menu are the recent additions of salted egg and ốc hương bông sốt me ($12, above), which is cooked in and covered with a sweet tamarind sauce.

Combined with their chili dipping sauce or the lime/pepper mixture, the sweetness is pared down to an appropriate amount and very enjoyable. Dishes like this are the perfect start to meals and especially when you come with friends or family are great to replicate the atmosphere of eating and drinking in Vietnam. Modern decor and odd remakes of pop music replace plastic stools and motorbikes puttering by, but the feelings are similar.

So diep trung cut / Sò điệp trứng cút (Scallops)

Snails are never meant to be eaten alone, so add the easily shareable sò điệp nướng trứng cút ($14, above) for another bite full of so many tastes and textures. These scallops are grilled and come topped with the cholesterol bomb of a quail egg and salted egg sauce. Once again apply their chili dip liberally.

After satisfying the initial hunger pangs you sat down with, move on to the rest of the menu. It may not be the best for sharing, but the restaurant kindly will bring out small bowls and spoons for everyone at the table for stews like canh bún riêu cua ($13, below). The actual full name of the soup goes on to describe fried snails, homemade crispy pork, and tofu in addition to its essential crab balls and stock.

Canh bun / Canh bún

Canh bún is sometimes compared to bún riêu because they are both crab-based stews, but while they could sometimes be similar by certain chefs, they are actually quite different. While a bún riêu broth is usually clear and uses pork or chicken stock, Northern Vietnamese canh bún like the one served at Ha Noi Corner is thicker and much more crab-forward in its oily depths.

Medium thickness vermicelli noodles are hidden beneath the water spinach (ong choy) and a variety of meats and meatballs. A squeeze of lime will help anyone who finds their first sip too rich, but many will enjoy this and indulge. This one is a keeper either way.

Banh cuon thit nuong / Bánh cuốn thịt nướng (rice paper with grilled pork)

While the bún chả Hà Nội here seems to be a lightning rod of disagreement, better to steer clear and get your grilled pork fix with the commendable bánh cuốn thịt chả nướng hà nội ($13, above). The authentic charcoal grilling of eating these on the streets of Vietnam that Orange County lacks, especially for the bún chả, is missing a bit less by these pieces of grilled marinated pork.

The pork itself is served in a delectably oily fish sauce broth and comes with a big fresh bunch of herbs. Wrap your desired tastes up in the thin rice paper if desired and enjoy all of these tastes and textures together. Do not be shy to spoon out the bottom of the bowl after the meats are gone, because if you wait too long one of your friends is bound to beat you to it.

Bun dau mam tom / Bún dau mam tôm

If you want to challenge yourself, try the pungent bún dau mam tôm ($14, above), a dish that centers around the shrimp paste in the center called mam tôm. This has plenty of stories by Vietnamese kids growing up in Southern California, needing to open the windows when their dads and uncles eat it, and all the trouble that it used to take to smuggle the good stuff back in suitcases.

No matter what, mam tôm is a food that is bound to be a breaking point for some friendships, not unlike durian which has very strong and mostly unappealing smells but which many people find divine to eat. Even those that are not into it will still find plenty to enjoy on this platter as their more adventurous companions are attacking the shrimp paste, it comes with cuts of pork, fried tofu, packed vermicelli, and a tasty ham and vegetable loaf. At the very least, it is worth experiencing if only to say you gave it a shot.


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