Xanh Bistro: It’s Easy Being Green in Fountain Valley [CLOSED]

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Vietnamese Restaurant Orange County

Green defines modern Vietnamese restaurant Xanh Bistro near Little Saigon.

Xanh Bistro is located in a new strip mall on the south end of Little Saigon, North America’s largest enclave of Vietnamese Americans. Chef-owner Haley Nguyen is a cooking instructor who previously owned a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. In late 2007, she opened Xanh Bistro, a modern Vietnamese restaurant that easily outpaced our expectations.

Vietnamese Restaurant Orange County

Xanh means “green” in Vietnamese. Green bamboo separates the kitchen from the dining area and the walls are green. Not everything is green. The east wall hosts a black-and-white photograph that Nguyen took in Vietnam.

Vietnamese Food Orange County

Goi Hoa Chuoi ($7.95) – Banana Blossom Salad – featured a mammoth pile of banana blossom strands, julienned carrot, red pepper and pickled daikon. There were also sheets of grilled pork, firm shrimp, aromatic mint leaves, chopped peanuts and sesame seeds. The salad was tossed with house-made lime-cilantro dressing. The idea was to pile salad on crisp sesame-studded rice crackers, bite down and crunch. It was a refreshing salad on a hot summer day.

Vietnamese Food Orange County

Bo Hoang Gia ($14.95) – 5-Spice Beef Short Ribs – were slow-cooked on the bone until fork tender (it’s a cliché but it was true in this case). The rich meat was decoratively plated over bitter garlic-slathered mustard greens and topped with fried carrot strands, which soaked up the meat jus.

Vietnamese Food Orange County

Cá kho to ($12.95) meant whitefish fillets slow-cooked in a hot metal dish. The tender fish soaked up its peppery caramel sauce bath. Our friendly waitress instructed us to pile on the steamed white rice, which cut the sauce’s intensity.

Xanh Bistro’s food packed plenty of flavor, but they still supplied four condiments, including a homemade burnt-orange pepper paste loaded with roasted red pepper skins and seeds. The paste sported intimidating color, but imparted balanced flavor that wasn’t disabling. There were also containers of whole green chilies and two varieties of fish sauce, one a deep dark color, and a lighter-hued one floating with diced garlic.

Our meal was flavorful, artfully plated and surprisingly affordable considering the generous portions. Xanh Bistro’s menu isn’t as deep as some better-known Vietnamese dining options in Westminster and Garden Grove, but those restaurants don’t have Haley Nguyen’s focus. The only downside: we didn’t have room for dessert.


Joshua Lurie

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

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