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Dat Thanh is a nem nuong and com tam specialist. Nem nuong is a type of Vietnamese spring roll that is made up of a grilled long and thin minced pork patty that is wrapped in rice paper wrapper with vegetables and fried crispy bits of wrappers. If you ask around about nem nuong you usually hear about Brodard Restaurant who is famous for it. However, I heard about Dat Thanh and decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did.
Dat Thanh is located in a small non-descript strip mall in Little Saigon. The restaurant is tiny and probably can sit about 15-16 people max. It is new looking and is probably one of the cleanest restaurants I’ve been to in Little Saigon. There is an open air kitchen where you can see them cooking although there’s not much to see as it’s really a two man operation with the owner working the cash register and dealing with customers and his father cooking in back.
I spoke with the owner who is a Vietnamese-American guy who worked a bunch of different restaurants such as Fleming’s Steakhouse in Newport Beach. His family had been in the restaurant business before and he decided he wanted to go back to his roots and open a Vietnamese restaurant. He’s quite nice and talkative; he seems to take a lot of pride in the quality of his food, which I obviously appreciate a lot.
Here’s what we got:
- Nem Nuong Cuon (Grilled Pork Patty Spring Roll): While Brodard’s version is quite good Dat Thanh’s version takes it up a notch. Dat Thahn’s nem nuong was revelatory for me. It was similar experience to my reaction to the banh cuon at Pho Tau Bay which completely changed my view of that dish. While I previously liked nem nuong cuon, but didn’t think it was amazing. Here I thought it was amazing. The rice wrapper was very fresh and you could tell it hadn’t been pre-wrapped and rather was wrapped to order; the wrapper is thinner and much better than the one at Brodard. The vegetables (lettuce, mint leaf and green onion) were all fresh and great tasting. The nem nuong was juicy and flavorful and I thought stood out against Brodard’s version. The crispy pieces of fried wrapper inside the roll gave it a great crispy texture that contrasts well with the meat, wrapper and vegetables. The sauce is similar to Brodard although I do think Brodard’s version is slightly better as I thought it was a bit too sweet, but the nem nuong cuon itself is much better here. Overall, this was so good. I actually took my mom here the following weekend because I thought it was so good, she thought it was amazing as well. Fyi, for me I use the sauce for half of the roll and then I use chili paste and nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce) for the other half of the roll. I think you’ll find that if you try it with one sauce and then with another the flavor is quite a bit different. 9/10
- Chao Tom Cuon (Grilled Shrimp Patty Spring Roll): I got the combination so I could try both the nem nuong (pork patty) and chao tom (shrimp patty). This was exactly the same except with the shrimp patty. This version was very good as well although I prefer the nem nuong as it’s more flavorful. 8/10
- Com Tam Pork Chop Combo: I got the pork chop combination which included shrimp cake wrapped in fried tofu skin, pork chop, shrimps on a skewer, bi (shredded pork, pork skin with rice powder) and a steamed egg omelet. First, com tam (broken rice) is fractured grains of rice (which I believe were discarded back in the day and used by poor peasants), so the grains of rice are very short and have a dryer consistency that is different than most rice that I really like (hard to explain, but you’ll like it). The rice here was even better than my gold standard Com Tam Tran Qui Cap, which has been my go to for com tam. The consistency was really nice and the owner told me he thinks very few places get their com tam right because they don’t take the time to cook it correctly. The shrimp cake wrapped in fried tofu skin was nicely freshly fried and had good flavor although I do think that Com Tam Tran Qui Cap’s version is better. The version here was more spongy and rubbery and although it was still good CTTQC’s version is stunning. The pork chop was good; it was tender and flavorful and was on par with CTTQC’s version. The shrimps on a skewer were also nicely flavored and tender on par with CTTQC’s version. The bi (shredded pork, pork skin with rice powder) was by far the best version I’ve ever had because normally I think of it as an after-thought, but the flavor and the texture from the rice powder was really good, the owner told me it’s because they make their own rice powder for the dish whereas most other places use pre-bought stuff. The steamed omelet was good as well and was more flavorful than other places. This was excellent; I really enjoyed their com tam as well. 8.5/10
- Com Tam Short Rib Combo: This was the same except with a short rib that tasted fairly similar to Korean kalbi. The short rib was tender and flavorful and I thought it was on par with CTTQC’s version. 8.5/10
- Iced Vietnamese Coffee: This was typical iced Vietnamese coffee, but it was pretty good. It wasn’t too bitter or too sweet. 7.75/10
- Soda Chanh: Soda chanh is soda water, lime and sugar. It’s really refreshing and the version here was one of the best versions I’ve had in Little Saigon as it wasn’t too sweet and had enough lime where you could really taste it. 8.5/10
Overall, this is one of the best restaurants I’ve found in Little Saigon. I highly recommend coming here.