Brodard is an iconic Little Saigon restaurant and Brodard Chateau is even more ambitious.
The dining options in Little Saigon run dozens deep, but certain restaurateurs have managed to maintain quality, draw crowds and distinguish themselves over time. The Dang family immigrated from Nha Trang, a coastal town north of Saigon, in 1987. Matriarch Diane Diang founded Brodard in 1996, and led the growth from humble bakery into thriving restaurant. She still presides over the popular Mall of Fortune destination, daughter Chau Dang-Haller runs Bamboo Bistro in Corona del Mar, and daughter Lisa Dang-Vo helms Brodard Chateau, a more ambitious Brodard spinoff that debuted just north of the 22 Freeway in 2006.
The two-story space features a full bar, wood accents, and decorative Vietnamese art.
Brodard is the house that spring rolls built, and the Dang family features several varieties at the Chateau, including Grilled Shrimp Spring Rolls – Chao Tom Cuon ($5.50). Juicy grilled shrimp cakes join crispy wonton rolls in rice paper with lettuce, carrot, scallions, cucumber and mint. Two sauces complement the rolls: medium-spicy chile sauce and chef’s special sauce, a magical orange slurry of chile, peanuts, garlic, fish sauce, ground meat and more.
Roasted Duck Spring Rolls – Goi Cuon Vit ($8.95) are a compelling alternative featuring tender, fat-rimmed roasted duck slices wrapped in rice paper with asparagus, scallions and cilantro. Instead of the orange sauce, the quacking rolls come with tangy plum sauce and a dish of spicy red and green chilies, seeds and all.
Crispy Seafood Egg Rolls – Cha Gio Hai San ($8.95) contribute more crunch. Blistered rolls contain minced pork, crab, shrimp, mushrooms and glass noodles and come with lettuce, cucumber and mint for wrapping. Dip in lime chili fish sauce for a tangy kick.
Of course Brodard Chateau does more than roll. Vietnamese Crepe – Banh Xeo ($8.95) may be my favorite version to date. Crisp pan-seared rice flour pancakes contain shrimp, pork, onions, mushrooms and crunchy bean sprouts. What surprised me was how clean the crepe tasted, and that it didn’t bleed oil, as they often do. Lettuce and Asian greens formed enlightening wrappers, and we received another dish of lime chili fish dipping sauce.
Pulled jackfruit salad was relatively mild, even after pouring supposedly pungent shrimp paste from a contemporary gravy boat. Still, there was a lot to like about the texture, of the dish, which matched bright mint with crispy fried shallots, crunchy peanuts, sweet shrimp, and large shards of black sesame-studded rice crackers.
Sole Noodle Soup – Bun Ca ($9.95) fell outside the spectrum of familiar Vietnamese soups like pho and bun bo hue, and I’m glad it did. A light, flavorful broth crafted from sea bass and chicken contained tender, flaky sole fillets, tomato that contributed welcome acidity, and firm house-made fish cakes (sole), plus a thatch of cilantro and scallions.
Sizzling Sole – Cha Ca Thang Long ($15.95) was derivative of Ha Noi’s famed Cha Ca La Vong, which dates to 1871. Instead of snakehead, the Dang family showcases sole, which they marinate in turmeric and spice and sizzle on a cast iron platter with onions, fresh baby dill, crispy fried shallots and more. This is a satisfying riff on a Vietnamese classic.
Brodard Chateau features nouveau desserts like Tropical Fruit Fritters ($6.95), crisp sheathed banana, jackfruit, durian and shredded coconut egg rolls with chocolate drizzling and sunburst plating, with a central scoop of vanilla ice cream.
I preferred ché, their colorful Vietnamese iced jelly dessert with squiggly green grass jelly, amber and black cubes, crunchy red jellies, rich egg yolk and coconut milk.
If you’ve been to the original Brodard, it’s easy to like the Vietnam-style bustle that the Dang family brings to the Mall of Fortune. However, it’s also nice to have a relaxing alternative, in a more decorative setting (with alcohol), and Brodard Chateau delivers.