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Review: Grand Garden for lunch, Arirung mkt for dessert

petradish | Oct 6, 200508:34 PM

Last Saturday we were suddenly very hungry for some leafy Vietnamese food. Mr. Creosote immediately blurted out Brodards but I suggested we branch out & try something new, so I did a quick search and came across a rec from Barbara Hansen attached to Vietworldkitchen's website: Grand Garden in Westminster. She spoke highly of their summer rolls/goi cuon so we went with it.

Arriving around 3pm, there was one other couple dining as we were seated near the front of the restaurant. Quite a big place and apparently being set up for a wedding party with grand tropical floral arrangements and champagne glasses. Little garden area around the restaurant's entrance with koi made the setting quite pleasant.

So toward the back of the menu we found our goi cuon under *house specials* and ordered a couple other similiar dishes for good measure. The waiter tried to give us the *lunch specials menu* which offered very ordinary looking Chinese dishes and we politely declined.

First came the goi cuon, 2 halved rolls filled with marinated & grilled pork, shrimp, bean sprouts, rice noodles and herbs wrapped in a rice paper and a bowl of thickish nuoc leo (hoisin-peanut sauce). Very fresh, chewy, and plump packages. The sprouts were particularly bright and crisp and the grilled pork added an extra dimension of flavor-a cut above. The sauce was fine.

Next arrived the nem nuong (seasoned pork meatballs) with softened rice paper and a generous leafy vegetable platter full of lettuce, herbs, carrots, cucumbers, noodles, and intriguing slices of green/unripe bananas (very excited about this as it added a slight astrigency to the DIY rolls). The nem nuong weren't as garlicky as Brodards and had a very pleasing meaty texture and a touch of glistening pork grease. The veggie plate items seemed particularly well prepared from the marinated carrots to the seasoned noodles, and everything was very fresh and aromatic.

Our third dish was chao tom (2 shrimp paste on sugarcane sticks) with another plate of fresh veggies & more rice wrappers. The shrimp was a very fine mix of texture & flavor, tasting of meaty, sweet shrimp (and not rubbery). We enjoy gnawing on our sugarcane sticks, extracting the co-mingled shrimp & sweet cane juices. Overall a very tasty and satisfying lunch for $21.45 (3 dishes, hot tea, tax)

We walked past the other stores in the mall, stopping to buy a dragonfruit ($5) at the tiny fruit shop, a freshly squeezed sugar cane & citrus juice from Nuoc Loc/Long An, and check out the pretty green gelled cakes and cuttlefish jerky at Van's Bakery.

Next we head off to the Korean part of Garden Grove for the patbingsu that Jschyun has mentioned on Chowhound and Egullet. I'm very eager at this point! At the end of the food court is an ice cream shop with very little English signage ("ice cream, coffee, cafe") and images of ice cream cones. I see a poster of patbingsu so at least I can do the point thing if my notes or botched pronunciations don't work. The owner and I share a few giggles as I ask for extra dduk (chunks of rice dough, kind of like mochi). Based on the price I think I got the first untranslated item under the *specials* menu ($4.75); no whipped cream, cherry, or fresh fruit.

What can I say, the chewy dduk was an awesome addition (although somewhat dangerous to my fillings?!) to the mix of shaved ice, vanilla ice cream, luscious sweet beans, canned fruit, milk (is it evap or condensed?), and mystery powder. At first Mr. Creosote said he missed the zip of Sunny D (!) they add at the mall in Ktown, but he soon was grooving on the way the beans added a rich mocha flavor to the whole sundae. So it was indeed a delight, thanks to Jschyun. We couldn't resist another stop in the market for some corn tea and boneless short ribs to bring home.

TIA for other suggestions/reminders for your fave goi cuon, chao tom, nem nuong, whatever in Little Saigon area ????

Grand Garden (tucked in back corner of mall)
8894 Bolsa Ave (@Magnolia), Westminster

Same mall as:
grocery store, Pho 54, Van's Bakery, tiny fruit shop, Nuoc Loc/Long An cane juice/water/cafe shop.

Arirung/AR market (foodcourt)
9580 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove


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