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Flying always sucks and on my latest trip home the weather was perfect in NY and CA yet due to “mechanical problems” my flight was delayed 2.5 hours. So, instead of enjoying a nice leisurely dinner at 8pm, I was absolutely starving and scramming to find a place that would still be open at 11pm. Luckily, I remembered Luc Dinh Ky, a place I’ve been meaning to try, which is open very late.
While Luc Dinh Ky is a Vietnamese restaurant, similar to my recent review of Canton Restaurant, you will see a lot of Chinese influence at Luc Dinh Ky. The menu is about half Chinese and half Vietnamese. They’ve got a few specialties which you see on pretty much everyone’s table including com nuong (various meats with crispy rice), chao (Cantonese style porridge), mi (Cantonese style egg noodles and noodle soup) and nuoc mat (chrysanthemum herbal tea).
The restaurant is brightly lit and doesn’t have too much in the way of décor although it is newer looking compared to a lot of the restaurants in Little Saigon, which are quite run down. I was shocked at how crowded it was at 11pm, we actually had to wait about 10 minutes for a table and keep in mind this is 11pm in Orange County, which is pretty unheard of (I felt like I was back in NY!). They also had a steady stream of people waiting in line for take-out. Our waitress didn’t really speak English and didn’t seem to speak Chinese either even though their menu is translated into Vietnamese, Chinese and English, but she was nice enough and a series of pointing worked its way out.
Anyhow onto the food:
- Com Nuong Ca Salmon (Salmon with Grilled Rice): Com nuong is rice that has been lightly grilled. It’s basically the rice that you get at the bottom of the hot clay pot, which I absolutely love. I’m not sure why you don’t see this more often as a standalone dish in East Asian food as I think all East Asian people like the crispy rice at the bottom of clay pots and all of the cultures eat rice in hot clay pots. I got the grilled salmon in a sweet sauce with cucumbers and soy sauce. I liked the sauce a lot, it was not too sweet and wasn’t gloppy at all; the flavor was perfect with the salmon. Dipping it in soy sauce gave it a nice contrast between the saltiness of the soy sauce and the sweetness of the sauce. The crispiness of the rice was very nice with everything. Overall, I liked the dish a lot; it was comfort food that was quite satisfying. 8/10
- Com Nuong Bo Luc Lac (French Style Beef Steak with Grilled Rice): This was typical bo luc lac, which is marinated beef cut into cubes grilled with onions. The version here was quite nice, the beef was nicely tender and the sauce tasted good. The sauce was savory and just very slightly sweet; it wasn’t quite as addictive as when I’ve had really good bo luc lac, but it still tasted great with the crispy rice. Overall, it was good and on a relative basis was above average bo luc lac for Little Saigon. 8/10
- Chao Ga (Chicken Congee): As I explained in my recent post on Canton Restaurant, congee is simply rice that is cooked with a lot more water, so instead of getting the dry rice you normally see you end up getting a thick porridge. The congee itself is fairly plain tasting, but you add different meats and other condiments to it to give it flavor. Normally, you eat it with you tiao, which is a long fried donut that you dip into the congee. However, it was too late for you tiao, so we just ate it straight up. The congee had good thick consistency and was nicely creamy although not as thick and creamy as Canton Restaurant. They garnish it with ginger, scallions and cilantro. I also put a healthy dose of white pepper into the congee. Normally, I get the pork and preserved egg, but my sister thought chicken sounded food, so we got chicken. It was all white breast meat and it was reasonably tender, but personally I find chicken is a little too light in flavor for congee. Overall, it was good congee although not quite as good as Canton Restaurant, but very solid nonetheless. 8.25/10
- Nuoc Mat: This was iced herbal tea that was made with chrysanthemum flowers. It was sweet, but not overly sweet and had light chrysanthemum and a slightly herbal taste to it, but it wasn’t strong at all. It tasted like a better version of the sweet tea that people drink in the South. This tea was really good and I ended up buying a bunch that they have in refrigerators to bring home. 8.5/10
Overall, I enjoyed the food here and while I don’t think it’s the best restaurant in Little Saigon, it was very satisfying and if you need food late night this would be a good spot to try. Also, I’m looking forward going back to try their mi (egg noodle soups) as they looked delicious.