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My Nguyen is a family style Vietnamese restaurant in Little Saigon. It’s been on my list of restaurants to try in Little Saigon for a while and I finally decided to stop in on my last trip back to CA. According to the reviews I’ve read the restaurant is known for its fried calamari, caramelized claypot catfish and hot and sour catfish soup.
The restaurant is located in small strip mall. It’s pretty typical Little Saigon décor meaning there isn’t that much. There is a big flat screen TV playing Vietnamese variety shows and for some reason they keep the volume up reasonably loud, so you can hear what is on the TV. I had no idea what they were saying, but the old people in restaurant seemed to be enjoying the show. The customer base is 100% Vietnamese families having big dinners (I’m talking like 10-12 people). The waiters spoke enough English to get by and the service was nice albeit brisk.
I believe the people who run it maybe ethnically Chinese as the name is written in Chinese, the menu is written in Chinese (plus Vietnamese and English), a lot of the decorations are Chinese (stuff that is supposed to be good luck for businesses) and the menu features a lot of Chinese food on it. Also, according to some of the reviews I read another dish that the restaurant is known for is their Hainan chicken (a poached chicken that originated from Hainan, China and is popular in most of southeast Asia in particular Singapore and Malaysia).
Here’s what we got:
- Jellyfish Seafood Salad: This was a salad that consisted of julienned jellyfish, papaya strips, carrots, cucumber, mint leaf, cilantro, thinly sliced pork, shrimp and crushed peanuts that was dressed in a light, sweet and tangy dressing. I thought it was quite good, it was very refreshing and the dressing they used on it went well with it. It sort of reminded me of the Isaan Thai dish som tum, which is a spicy papaya salad except it wasn’t spicy and was much lighter in flavoring. Overall, this was a good dish. 8/10
- Fried Calamari (Muc Lan Bot Chien): This is one of the house specialties and you saw it on every table. It was different than I was expecting. I was expecting it to be similar to Chinese salt and pepper squid where the batter is made salty as I’ve had stuff like that at other Vietnamese restaurants. Instead the batter wasn’t salty at all and it was more similar to how most American batter is flavored. The strips of squid were cut very thin, which was also a surprise. It was fried very nicely as it was not oily at all and then wasn’t over battered. Because it was so thinly sliced each piece is very crispy. They give you nuoc mam (fish sauce) and a soy sauce with jalapenos in it. I thought it was better with the soy sauce as it needed the salt. Overall, it was quite good although not quite as good as some reviews made it out to be. 7.75/10
- Whole Fried Fish (Ca Chien): This was a fried pomfret that was prepared very simply in a light batter and then fried. It was served with nuoc mam (fish sauce) that had some chilis in it. It was a little hard to eat with chopsticks, but it was tasty. It was nicely fried and the meat was tender. I liked the dish. 7.75/10
- Caramelized Claypot Catfish (Ca Kho To): This is a Vietnamese dish that I love. It consists of filets of catfish that are cooked in a claypot (in this case an iron pot) in a sauce made from soy sauce and sugar. The result is a beautifully tender fish in a salty and sweet sauce that is wonderful. The version here was good and the sauce was addictive as we were literally pouring it all over our rice even after we finished all the meat. I will say it’s not as good as the version at Xanh which is exceptional, but it is better than most other restaurants I’ve tried it at in Little Saigon. 8.5/10
- Hot and Sour Catfish Soup (Canh Chua): This was the first time I’ve ever tried this dish and it was quite a bit different than what I was expecting. I was expecting something that would be quite sour and instead it turned out to be sweet and sour. The broth was very light and refreshing; it was infused with the flavor of the catfish, tamarind and pineapple (I believe the pineapple is was what made it sweet). It had a variety of other vegetables, many of which I could not identify. It was a well cooked as the broth was complex and very fragrant in the way you can only get when you cook soup correctly. The catfish was nice and was not fishy at all. Overall, I thought it was a very well prepared dish although the sweetness threw me off a little. 7.75/10
I thought everything was solidly good. I’d recommend it for a family style meal. Also, it was very cheap; all of this food which was too much for the four of us was around $50.
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