The decision on where to eat at Garden Grove’s Mall of Fortune is no longer clear-cut. Starting in 1996, Brodard was the obvious choice. In 2015, chef Kristin Nguyen disrupted the paradigm by opening Garlic & Chives, a bastion for Vietnamese “fusion cuisine.” The space is a bit of a hodgepodge, with brown banquettes, white and gold walls, and mismatched chandeliers. Even the music is kind of kooky, swaying between “Hotel California” and a Muzak take on “Careless Whisper.” The sprawling menu is also pretty diverse, but includes classics like sizzling clay pots (cơm tay cầm).
Com Chay Ca Kho To Ba Roi ($11) stars caramelized catfish and pork belly. Flaky, bone-in, cross-sections of fish join strips of striated, guanciale-like pork in a syrupy, flame-red sludge that’s simultaneous sweet, spicy, and tangy. Each well-worn pot’s garnished with red and green jalapeño slices, fried garlic, and clipped scallions. A similarly sizzling vessel features crispy rice dressed with more scallions and garlic. A dish of pungent pickled vegetables rounds out your meal. Just scrape off some rice to temper the rich, sticky caramelized proteins and add pickled veg to achieve relative balance.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.