Dat Thanh: No Nonsense Comfort Food in Little Saigon [CLOSED]

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Vietnamese Restaurant Orange County

Dat Thanh is a draw just outside Little Saigon for Vietnamese "rice dishes + spring rolls."

Little Saigon’s depth and breadth continues to astound me. Dozens of trips have already yielded plenty of terrific meals. However, driving down streets like Brookhurst, Bolsa and Westminster makes it increasingly clear that there are still countless restaurants to explore. Sometimes, it can be hard to know where to turn next. Thankfully, there are local resources like OC Weekly food writer Dave Lieberman, who turned me on to one of the area’s best new options: Dat Thanh.

Owners Toan Nguyen and wife Mary have been in the restaurant business for about 15 years. They’re natives of Vung Tau, Vietnam, which is located on the coast, about an hour outside of Ho Chi Minh City. The family farmed before moving to the States, and once they arrived, they ran a clothing factory and Vietnamese bakery that became known for banh mi and iced coffee. Now the Nguyens and son Hoi (a longtime employee of Fleming’s and former trainer for Wolfgang Puck) own a restaurant in Vegas called Bosa 1. Their latest venture is Dat Thanh, a nearly three-month-old revival with only six tables in the same strip mall as goat meat specialist Binh Dan. Decorations are lean, amounting to a fan touting a river village and a galloping horse painting.

Considering the popularity of Brodard, a Little Saigon institution, it makes sense that other restaurants would attempt to master the pork meatball spring roll. As Lieberman pointed out, Dat Thanh certainly warrants inclusion in any Nem Nuong conversation. Based on my Brodard memories, it’s hard to tell much difference.

Vietnamese Food Orange County

Dan Thanh’s Nem Nướng Cuốn Thủ Dức (4 rolls for $5.89) consist of Vietnamese BBQ pork sausage spring rolls, crafted in-house using shoulder meat, marinated and grilled.

The Nguyens roll their smoky sausages in rice paper with cilantro, mint, cucumber, crisp iceberg lettuce, crispy wonton strips, pickled carrot and daikon. The rolls are well balanced and really come alive in the proprietary dipping sauce. The family makes their rich orange sauce with 14 ingredients, including peanut butter, garlic, fish sauce and ground chicken (as opposed to Brodard’s ground pork). That’s one big difference.

Vietnamese Food Orange County
Dat Thanh also specializes in com tam, broken rice grains that are the byproduct of processing. The busted grains were long considered the provenance of the poor, until people realized they’re a worthy vessel for meat, rolls and more.

Vietnamese Food Orange County

Com Tam Tau Hu Ky, Tom, Bi, Cha va Bo Dai Han ($9.89) featured fluffy broken rice piled with bone-in Korean-style short ribs (marinated and grilled), a caramelized BBQ shrimp skewer, and shreds of meaty pork leg and gelatinous skin, both dusted with gritty house-made rice powder. We also scored a firm egg patty wedge studded with pork and mushrooms, plus a peppery shrimp cake bound with water chestnuts, wrapped in thin sheets of bean curd and fried in soybean oil until crispy on the outside.

On the side, Hoi Nguyen delivered small bowls of cleansing chicken broth flavored with mushrooms and shrimp that, sprinkled with cilantro, scallion and onion.

Vietnamese Food Orange County

Instead of sending us on our way with mints, the hospitable Hoi Nguyen shared two fried shrimp rolls sheathed in crispy wonton skins that cradled sweet shrimp and a peppery filling involving ground pork and taro, to name just two ingredients. Next time, a full order is definitely in order.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Glad you went. One thing I’ve noticed is that cơm tấm prices have gone up $3 or so in the last year or two. I don’t know if it’s the rice, long held-off price increases finally becoming necessary or what, but all the places are now $7-$10 for four toppings when they were $4-$6 two years ago. I know for sure I had had a plate of cơm tấm bì chả tàu hủ ky lạp xướng for $6 at Cơm Tấm Thuận Kiều not that long ago.

Dave, $6 is certainly better than $10 for the same food, but even at $10, a heaping plate of com tam with multiple toppings is still a bargain.

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