Even with just a tiny chill in the air last week, I was thinking about soups of the Asian variety. Hot and sour soup was playing a tune in my head, but the haunting melody of a good pho was also teasing me until I could stand it no more and drove to Vietnam Restaurant. Vietnam is one of three restaurants on Las Tunas in San Gabriel owned by various members of the same family. Golden Deli was the first, always a classic, and often quite crowded. Vietnam House is less crowded and serves an ample seven courses of beef, but for some reason I got a blinding headache after I ate there so I'm not that into going back.
Vietnam Restaurant is the third and my favorite of the three. It's not fancy, but various stringed instruments on the wall provide a stab at decor, and the staff is happy to explain how various dishes should be eaten.After we ordered, huge plates of greenery and vegetables started arriving, along with a pile of hard, translucent discs that look like plastic coasters or 45 records. When our surf 'n turf -- charbroiled beef and charbroiled shrimp arrived -- the server explained how to dip the discs of rice paper into the bowl of hot water, then wrap shrimp or beef, pickled vegetables and greens up in a nice package. The spring rolls came with a great variety of fresh herbs, including perilla, cilantro, ngo gai (sawtooth), laksa and basil.Cha gio in a combo with shredded pork and vermicelli, and plenty of greenery
I usually get beef pho, but we decided to try the pho ga dac biet (special chicken pho), with a well-flavored broth and pieces of everything but the cluck floating around. This is one place where even the chicken has plenty of flavor. Even after throwing bean sprouts and herbs in the pho, there was still a huge pile of greenery left on the table. We kept dipping the rice paper wrappers in water, adding herbs and chili sauce, and rolling them up with pickled carrots and daikon until every shred of beef and shrimp was gone. We'll definitely return to Vietnam Restaurant, and I swear, next time I will get the pickle lemonade.
340 W. Las Tunas Dr.