My boyfriend and I visited this little place on Santa Monica Boulevard (between Federal and Barrington) last night. I haven't seen too much discussion of it on this board, so I thought I'd post my thoughts.
Overall we really really liked it. The space is small and the tables cramped together (ours was literally in the door to the kitchen), but the service was attentive and fast and the food was excellent at bargain basement prices, so we judged it our new favorite 'dive' type restaurant. (narrowly edging out Terried Sake House.)
The menu is not extensive, and that made things easier for novices to vietnamese food like us. They offer 5 different Phos - four with beef one chicken, no vegetarian. They also offer what looks like 5 Bun dishes (cold rice vermicelli dishes - like ramen soup with no broth) - all had combinations of pork (they recommended this), beef, chicken, shrimp, imperial rolls. A couple of Com Dia (rice plates), with more pork, beef and shrimp (typical vietnamese far I take it?), and the house specials (various).
We ordered the fresh spring roll appetizers, found them to be excellent, and the dipping sauce tasty, although I would be no judge of authenticity. They do offer a version of these with tofu, but we ordered the pork and shrimp ones.
We also ordered a couple of the House Specials:
Nem Nuong, which was a plate of lettuce leaves, very nicely marinated and grilled (?) pork, with mint leaves, cilantro, basil, carrots, cucumber, a sweetish sauce, and rice paper wrappers to roll everything in. This was delicious, with the basil and cilantro carrying everything.
Also, Bun Nem Nuong Cha Gio, which was billed as Rice Vermicelli with Pork Meatball and Imperial Roll. Turned out to be cold vermicelli, with sausage-like pork hot-dog thingys (yummy, but I might try some other type next time), super crispy little imperial rolls, cilantro, greens, carrots, cucumber, peppers, and other unidentifiable condiments, served with a little bowl of lightly flavored stock (chicken I think, with fish sauce). Pepped up with a big dollop of chili garlic sauce, this turned out to be my favorite.
We also had a glass of coconut juice (what you'd expect) and a Grass Jelly Drink (very asia-authentic, according to asian-mutt boyfriend who grew up there.) I thought the Grass Jelly Drink was wierd - globs of jelly in it - but tasty, definitely interesting though, and I appreciate that they offered it.
We forgot to try their desserts, but they are Longan (a type of fruit?) and Che Ba Mau ("two flavored beans and jello in light syrup"). You fellow hounds might have a better idea than me what these are, I truly have no idea.
Business was brisk and the place was full (of Vietnamese) the whole time we were there (thursday at 7).
The whole thing set us back a whopping $21, so like I said before, it is our new favorite restaurant. Alas, no delivery, but it looks like they do takeout.
If anybody knows any other vietnamese restaurants, I would love to try them - this is going to inspire a trip down to Westminister saturday evening if anybody has any advice for that area.
Thanks in advance! SusanB