Brodard's state of the art spring rolls stand out in SoCal's Vietnamese hotbed.
The house that nem nuong built has been located on the back end of Little Saigon’s Mall of Fortune since 2000. Before then, Diane Dang’s Vietnamese restaurant was situated at the nearby Asian Garden Mall. In July 2006, Diane opened a higher end restaurant called Brodard Chateau with daughters Chau and Lisa, and they have a third spot called Bamboo Bistro in Corona del Mar, but so far, I prefer the family’s original, home-style Brodard.
In a show of marketing prowess, Brodard’s owners installed an exhibition window in the Mall of Fortune hallway, so potential customers can see women constructing Nem Nuong Cuon (pork meatball spring rolls). Once customers are lured inside the spacious restaurant, they discover mammoth flower bouquets and an inexplicable painting of horses on the wall.
We combined Nem Nuong Cuon and Chao Tom Cuon (grilled shrimp paste rolls) for $6.50. Nem nuong were kebab-like char-grilled pork meatballs. Chao Tom were their shrimp equivalent. Both were wrapped and bound with rice paper, joined by Romaine lettuce, julienned cucumber, carrot and daikon, mint leaves and strands of fried dough for crunch. The rolls were served with a dish of “house special sauce,” a peanut sauce flecked with red chilies and loaded with minced pork. Hot sauce gripped the spring rolls, adding a flavor boost to the already satisfying appetizer.
Goi Du Du Bo Kho, Gan Chay ($5) was a shredded green papaya salad topped with cuts of spice-tossed beef jerky and smoked pork liver. The nearly black pork liver was chewy and pungent, with intense pork flavor. Strangely, the red beef jerky tasted like shredded pork. I doused bland papaya with roasted peanuts and spicy house vinaigrette dressing, which undoubtedly contained soy sauce.
Mien Xao Tom Cua ($11.95) resembled seafood pad Thai, glass noodles wok-fried with nuggets of crabmeat, jumbo shrimp, scallions, red and white onions and scrambled egg, the entire mess dyed yellow from turmeric and delicious.
Each table holds a pitcher of fish sauce, dishes of chile oil and Sriracha, and a bowl of raw garlic cloves and green chilies.
Che Khoai Mon ($2) was a “purple yam dessert,” basically liquefied purple yam doused with coconut milk.
We drank Ca phe Sua Da ($2), strong iced Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk.
There are certainly more inventive Vietnamese restaurants in Little Saigon, and restaurants that get more specific, but there aren’t many that are more comforting than Brodard.