My friends tried Tan Huong in Orange recently. It's located in a non-descript strip mall, sharing a parking lot with a Papa John's and a decidedly curiousity inducing tanning parlor called "$3 Tan". We were all wondering what the proprietors would say if you just went in there and said "Here's $3. Tan me."
Anyway, I digress. It was almost 8:15 pm, and the restaurant was dead. I mean it was so dead, the waiters we just sitting around one of the empty tables, reading newspapers, barely looking up at us as we came in. The small TV where KCAL news was broadcasting the latest LA freeway chase. The owner, I think it was, greeted us. He was a young Asian guy, dare I say dude, and who spoke in staccato, without a spot of an accent.
"How many?" he said
We sat down in one of the empty fake leather booths. On our table, your standard set of condiment bottles and ramekins. Hoisin sauce, chili sauce, chili oil, soy, fish sauce. Chopsticks, knifes, forks, and spoons stacked in bunches. You took whatever you needed from it. A typical Vietnamese restaurant setup. Big photos of Vietnamese scenes were hung sparsely around the walls of the restaurant. On one corner of the restaurant was a brightly lit boba and smoothie counter, with a separate door than the restaurant itself.
We looked at the menu and decided to order by looking at the pictures of the dishes. The owner came over.
Friend 1: "I'll have this one." (pointing at the picture of BBQ Pork Chops with two fried eggs)
Owner: "One egg or two?"
Friend 1: "Two"
Friend 2: "I'll have the same."
Me: "I've have this one." (ponting at the noodle soup with wontons and sliced cha su).
Owner: "Rice noodle or egg noodle?"
Owner: "Regular or large?"
A no-nonsense guy, right to the point. I liked that, I thought.
The food was brought shortly. My soup noodles came out first. There was about four of five fat little yellow wontons, and a few slices of red rimmed cha su. The soup itself was garnished with green onions, fried crispy shallots, with the cutomary side of bean sprouts, cilantro, sliced jalapenos, and a wedge of lime. I dumped the bean sprouts and cilantro in. Squeezed some lime. Left out the jalapenos. The noodles were in a semi solid clump on the bottom of the bowl. I prodded it with my chopstick to loosen it in the soup. Within a few seconds, it did, becoming alive in the broth. I slurped a chopstick's full of the noodles. Not bad. The soup was nicely flavored, light and slightly sweet with a pork and chicken undertone, and still steamy hot. This wasn't the pho broth, so there was no anise flavor. I liked it. The chubby wontons gave way to a ground pork and chunky shrimp filling when bitten. Tender, and quite meatier than I had expected. It was bit like a shu mai at a dim sum joint, but less fatty. The cha su however was very lean, and as a result kind of tough and dry. A long soak in the soup didn't really make them anymore tender. All in all, for $4.75, it was a good bowl of soup.
The Pork Chop and Egg with rice looked good too. Very generous serving for $6.50. It looked like there were about two and a half pork chops per plate. Each one about a quarter of an inch thick. Although not as dark brown as I'm used to, it was tender and had a nice marinated flavor. The eggs were nicely lacey and crispy on the edges, just like mom makes. The dish came with a small bowl of pho broth and sides of sliced cucumber and cabbage pickles. Also, there was the usual bowl of seasoned fish sauce you used to spoon over the rice with.
It was a good meal. The only thing that kind of bugged me was when the smell of Lysol wafted in from the kitchen. I knew they were closing up, but that scent just kind of kills your appetite. I wished they waited until we left to wipe down.
And like a typical Vietnamese restaurant, you walk up to the counter to pay your bill.
When I got up there, the owner said "Dinner good?"
"Yes," I said, "thank you."
As we left, they waved goodbye. Even the guy reading the newspaper.
So that was it. A pretty good Vietnamese restaurant, nowhere near the bustle of Little Saigon. Would I go back? Definitely, but only if I'm in the area. It was quite a schlep from Irvine. And the food was, in my opinion, on par, albeit cheaper than Pho Bac in Irvine (my standard Vietnamese choice around these parts). I know, most Vietnamese would scoff at my choice, but, hey, I like it.