>> Bò Vàng Restaurant | Eat the World Los Angeles

Friday 17 February 2023

Bò Vàng Restaurant

Exterior facade

📍 12093 Brookhurst Street, Garden Grove, Orange County
🅿️ Ample parking in plaza
🥤 No Alcohol

If you are the type that is usually put off by the smiling faces of anthropomorphic animals in restaurant logos, no one could really blame you. It is an odd thing to put an animal to its death and use their image in selling a food based on their meats. But sometimes you have to give a little wiggle room, and this new Little Saigon Northern Vietnamese specialist definitely deserves some of that.

About a month before Phở Thìn 13 Lò Đúc opened in Westminster, Bò Vàng Restaurant opened its doors to Garden Grove in early December across the plaza from Góc Hà Nội/Ha Noi Corner, another northern Vietnamese specialist. Orange County's Little Saigon continues to expand its variety as new generations have a taste for other types of cuisines that are popular in Vietnam but have been slow to come to California.

Phở Bò Vàng tái lăn

While the other newcomer focuses on one dish, Bò Vàng has a full menu of attractions. The same Hanoi-style phở bò tái lăn ($12, above) is available, and had to be immediately compared to their crosstown competition. This style, as reported earlier this week, consists of briefly stir-frying thin cuts of beef with heaps of garlic before adding the still rare meat to broth.

While the bowl did not live up to the lofty standards of Phở Thìn 13 Lò Đúc, it was the only disappointment of the entire meal. It suffered most from the noodles, which seemed packaged. The broth was serviceable, but did not have near the depth that has proved to be possible. But forget about that, because this was a very good meal.

Bún nem tôm cua bể (fried shrimp and crab rolls)

The menu only gets to 19 items total, and besides the four choices of phở is firing on all cylinders. The lists starts strong with a couple appetizers that should be shared with your table, including the super crisp bún nem tôm cua bể ($12, above), four deep fried shrimp and crab rolls served with a mound of vermicelli and greens as well as possibly the zippiest nước chấm in town.

Bún chả ($12, below) has been available in Little Saigon for a while, and one of the dishes from Hanoi that Orange County knows well. It does not always pull its weight though, especially for people that have been to the north of Vietnam, so the plate of caramelized slices of pork belly and flattened pork meatballs served at Bò Vàng is a nice welcome. Like the rolls, bún chả comes with vermicelli noodles, herbs, and the house nước chấm to make a wide variety of bites.

Bún chả (Grilled pork with vermicelli)

An order of chả cá hà nội ($16, below) is too tempting on the menu to resist, a little underwhelming when it arrives, but still worth a try. It brings a portable fire to your table to add to the already cooked pieces of fish and greens with dill and peanuts from the plate it comes with. Anyone who has traveled to or lived in Hanoi will have eventually found their way to the city's old quarter and the street named for the dish with many places to try chả cá.

It is somewhat of a symbol of Hanoi, and has been enjoyed in this do it yourself form for over a century. The meat of the fish is tinged yellow by turmeric, and when ready can be dipped in mắm nêm, an intensely pungent fermented anchovy paste. The version here seems watered down and more approachable than the shrimp version across the plaza, which really can only be enjoyed by those who grew up with it. Comparably, this is a very safe entry point to explore these fermented condiments.

Chả cá Hà Nội (Hanoi grilled fish)

After two of the most distinctive dishes from Hanoi are enjoyed, you may be wondering back to that anthropomorphized cow and thinking how to rectify the situation of only eating so-so beef phở to this point. You might be more likely to find a street vendor in Ho Chi Minh City serving sizzling plates of bò né ($16, below) rather than in Hanoi, but the dish is recommended here at Bò Vàng Restaurant, and will satisfy any beef craving.

This Vietnamese preparation of steak is served with sunny side up eggs, but the meat's marinade will make all those steak and eggs from greasy spoons seem sad in retrospect. There are also onions still cooking on the hot plate with two large pork meatballs, and the dish is served with a fresh baguette that is no afterthought. This bread is baked perfectly, soft inside with a very crisp crust, and using it to shovel bites of steak and eggs makes life seem a little better for the moment.

Bò né (beef steak with eggs and pork meatballs)

If you are having less of an assortment for a meal here, they have a good looking beef hot pot that seems like a fantastic order for a couple or group to share. Solo diners can enjoy one of three types of bún with different seafood, like the rolls and fried fish already enjoyed earlier to make a meal on the lighter side.

After seeing some of the new spots opened in the past couple years, it will be so interesting to see the trajectory of restaurants in Garden Grove and Westminster. There seems to be enough demand for cuisines that were not seen much in the area for its first four decades of being the home to many Vietnamese families. Exciting times.


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