We were in Torrance yesterday, which usually means a visit to Emerald BBQ on PCH, but we weren't ready to eat at 5:30, so we drove home to work up an appetite. When we were hungry, we drove down to Red Moon Cafe, on National and Sawtelle in Mar Vista, right under the freeway.
We've been to Red Moon a few times before and, to be honest, the food was never spectacular. We went last night only because I wanted Chinese food and my beloved wanted Vietnamese, and it seemed like the best compromise. Our prior experience is that the service is painfully slow, to the point where I had to body-check the waitress one time to get the bill after 30 minutes of waiting.
That said, they seem to have cleaned up the service somewhat. This is not to say that it's good - not even close - but we weren't kept waiting an impossibly long time for anything. Part of the problem with the service, to be honest, is the language barrier. Pointing at the menu is fine for the ordering, but special requests are maddening. That said, the food came out reasonably quickly and at the appropriate temperature. Very little communication was attempted on the part of the waitress.
DECOR AND AMBIANCE
It's definitely red. It's surprisingly elegant in a minimalist kind of way, and hidden somewhat from the large streets at whose corner it sits. You don't hear the freeway at all. Just PLEASE close the door to the bathroom - no one wants to see into it while he's eating!
After all our debate at home, we both ended up choosing from the Family Dinner menu (soup, appetizer rolls, and an entree each). We ordered garlic chicken and lemongrass beef.
The soup was absolutely a chaloshes. It seemed like someone had dumped a tablespoon of unflavoured gelatin in a tub of something destined to be hot and sour soup (only missing the hot and sour part), so it was a thick fog of eggs and orange-coloured, bland semisolid. I did something uncharacteristic of me when I tasted it - I refused to eat it.
The meal came with summer rolls (unfried) and spring rolls (fried). Both were delicious, but the spring rolls were incredible. Instead of the usual fried medium-brown sheets of wonton skin, it had a very crêpe-papery texture and had been fried so that it was just barely brown. When eaten with their peanut sauce, it was excellent. When eaten with their nuoc mam (fish sauce), it was even better.
My fiancée didn't like the lemongrass beef as much as I did. She wanted it to be more sour, whereas I thought it was pretty darn good and just sour enough so you knew it was there. The sour was, of course, all in the sauce so if you got a bite without sauce it was just another woked creation.
On to the garlic chicken. When I die, I want to have just finished an enormous plate of Red Moon's garlic chicken. Hot, tangy, with the perfect texture of sauce (the same thickness, may I mention, as the soup), and hints of ginger as well. We played 'parse the ingredient' but we'll never be able to recreate it at home.
A note about their steamed rice. So many places give you awful rice, heavy and thick and obviously several hours old. The rice here was light and fluffy and a perfect foil for that garlic sauce (my God, I'm DROOLING, twenty hours later!).
My beloved had water, I drank Vietnamese coffee (ca phê sua). The coffee was very good but waiting for it to drip out of that little contraption on the top was IRRITATING.
Dinner for the two of us was $30, including tax and tip.
Not a bad value but not exactly something that's going to make bargain hunters flock to the door.
They've cleaned up the service and I want more garlic chicken. I will be back and to Hell with the communications problems.