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REVIEW: Asia Café

PRSMDave | Mar 31, 200212:14 AM

Asia Café
124 N. San Fernando Rd.
Free parking on-street and in the lots on the sidestreets.

This is an unassuming little Vietnamese-Chinese place in the middle of Multiculti Gulch south of Media City Centre.

DECOR: Not exactly impressive. Lime-green vinyl booths, glass-topped tablecloths with random mass-market Asian prints underneath. The usual Asian-ambiance prints on the walls, and lucky bamboo on the tables.

SERVICE: Quick, efficient, and correct. Not especially warm but I'd rather have efficient than warm. No apparent language barrier - my fiancée ordered in English and I in Vietnamese, and both were understood.

FOOD: We violated the rule of restaurant reviews and got essentially the same dish. She got bún thit nuong (rice vermicelli bowl with vegetables and BBQ pork) and I got bún cha gio thit nuong (the same, except with Imperial roll pieces in it). She had water, I had Thai iced tea.

I was impressed. Usually "Vietnamese-Chinese" means the place caters to American tastes and is mostly bad "white people Chinese" food. This menu was much more Vietnamese. Still Americanised, but not nearly so much as Pho Bac Huynh.

It's not just pho, bún, and com tam... there are some stir-fries and some banh xeo on the menu as well, and some Vietnamese soups.

The bún was competently executed, with more chilli in the nuoc mam (fish sauce) than is usual in Vietnamese places in SoCal - this was a Good Thing. They had all the proper Vietnamese herbs, including the herb which name I always forget that tastes of anise. The vegetables were fresh and chilled, the noodles were not waterlogged, the cha gio were crisp, hot, and tasty, and then there was the pork.

The pork was a bit juicy still, and there was not a bit of gristle to be found in the thick chunks. My main complaint with Pho Bac Huynh et al. is that it seems like they take the yuckiest pork chops and chop them up to make their bún. Asia Café's pork was well-seasoned and just downright tasty.

If I had to change something, I'd want a bit more vegetable.

PRICE: $6.75 for the bún thit nuong, $6.95 for the bún cha gio thit nuong. Total, including my iced tea, was $17.50.

VALUE: Not as cheap as Pho Bac Huynh et al. but well worth the increase in price for the increase in quality. It's got better food than Pho Bac Huynh and better service than Red Moon Cafe.

We'll definitely go back.

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