I love Brookhurst. It starts with chainlandia, then goes to Vietnam, up to Korea, then over to Lebanon, and finally to Mexico. It's totally one of the chow axes of LA. So this Sunday I started exploring.
Breakfast was at Pho 86, slightly south of Hazard in Westminster. Walked in at 8 AM, sat down, waved off the menu, and ordered pho tai chin nam and ca phe sua nong. Everyone stopped and stared -- a white guy in a pho shop at 8 AM on a Sunday, ordering in Vietnamese, are you KIDDING me?
Literally forty-five seconds after I put in the order, it was in front of me. The ca phe was pre-made, unfortunately, drawn from a large electric samovar. The pho and the xalach dia (table salad) arrived -- and the table salad, wonder of wonders, actually had ngo gai (sawleaf herb, also known as culantro), TWO things of lime, and an entire chili pepper in slices.
There weren't any sauce bowls on the table, so I figured I'd make do with a soup spoon (you know the deal, flat-bottomed plastic Asian soup spoons). A woman handed me a sauce bowl with a glower... sorry, Your Excellency, I didn't realise How Things Are Done Here. I mixed my lime juice and my black pepper, added my hoisin and rooster sauce to the pho, and dug in.
The broth was a bit weak (it strengthens throughout the day) but with the hoisin and rooster sauce, it was damn near perfect. Noodles were wonderful, not clumped together but not so wet that they diluted the broth.
People kept trying to offer me forks. Finally I looked at the owner, who kept trying to nudge the fork under my arm, and said in Vietnamese, "How am I going to eat pho with a fork? Please! Let me eat, I'm hungry." That got a lot of stares.
For lunch after church, Mrs Ubergeek requested banh mi, so I headed down to Banh Mi Che Cali, one block south of Bolsa. The woman at the cash desk was quite rude. When I asked (in Viet) if they had any bo ragu or any xa xiu, she shouted in English, "DO YOU SEE IT ON THE MENU?" I mean, give me a break, the one in Rosemead has it, anyone would think I'd been tormenting her for hours. I got a grilled pork, a grilled chicken, a nem nuong and a xiu mai. The pork was fine, though fatty. The chicken was stuffed ridiculously full and was VERY tasty. The nem nuong was ice cold and I didn't enjoy it, but it was more than made up for by the xiu mai, which is like a little pork meatball flavoured like shu mai. SO TASTY! At $1.75 each, you can't beat the price -- and if you like your banh mi on French rolls, it's $2.00 each but 3 for the price of 2. I prefer mine on Viet baguette (which has rice flour in it to make it lighter). We also got a package of goi cuon, the "summer rolls" (unfried, with pork, shrimp, lettuce, herbs, noodles and cucumber inside). Fantastic.
Finally, Mrs Ubergeek had an appointment in LA in the evening, so I was on my own. I couldn't deal with eating bo bay mon (7 courses of beef) myself, though I was intrigued by Pagolac, so I went to Korea House (near Garden Grove Blvd.) and had some extremely mediocre buffet-style Korean BBQ... just like its sister in Tustin, fine if you want boring meat and substandard panchan but are very hungry.
I look forward to trying more things on Brookhurst -- Brodard, Pagolac, more Korean places, and the good-smelling Lebanese places between Katella and Ball.
14576 Brookhurst St.
7 days a week, 0500-2130
Banh Mi Che Cali
15551 Brookhurst St.
Hours not posted
12118 Brookhurst St.
7 days a week, 1100-2200