Archive for the 'Orange County' Category

Ha Noi Restaurant

December 23, 2007
Cuisine: Vietnamese

9082 Bolsa Avenue
Westminster, CA 92683

Phone: 714-901-8108


Banh Tom Co Ngu ($6.50)


Bun Cha Ha Noi ($6.50)

On our drive from LAX to San Diego, my mom and aunt insisted that we stop by Little Saigon for a little shopping and dinner. After five months of living in Vietnam, I wasn’t exactly craving Vietnamese cuisine, but I was excited to compare and contrast food from Saigon to food from Little Saigon.

Since my family is from the south, I was surprised when we pulled into an eatery specializing in northern delicacies. My aunt had heard good things about Ha Noi Restaurant, and so my mom and I left her in charge of the ordering; she stuck to the house specials—banh tom co ngu and bun cha.

The banh tom co ngu achieved the ideal deep-fried state—crispy without a trace of greasy. Wrapped in large Romaine lettuce and dipped in nuoc cham, the familiar flavors of the banh tom co ngu instantly transported me back to Saigon.

I only had a small bite of the bun cha because my appetite was sadly non-existant due to jetlag. I thought that the cha here was far leaner than the ones in Saigon. Another difference was the size of the meat patties. Whereas the cha in Vietnam are about the size of silver dollars, the ones served here were super-sized. Oh, America.

I once read that the Vietnamese food in Vietnam tastes better because of ambient factors like motorbike exhaust, stumpy stools, napkin littered floors, etc., but wasn’t sure if I agreed. After eating in sanitary Little Saigon, I must admit that I badly missed the real thing.


The Ramos House Café

July 26, 2007
Cuisine: American (New), Southern

31752 Los Rios St
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

Phone: 949-443-1342

Cinnamon Apple Beignets ($6)

Mac n’ Cheese with Smoked Veggies and Lemon Gremolada ($16)

Southern Fried Chicken Salad with Corn Bread, Cranberries and Pumpkin Seed Buttermilk Dressing ($14)

Strawberry Basil Pain Perdu ($12)

Not wanting to leave America without seeing one of my best friends, The Astronomer and I drove to San Jaun Capistrano to lunch with Esme on my final day in the states. She lives in Pasadena while I reside in San Diego, so we met exactly half way in the city of San Jaun Capistrano.

While researching restaurants midway between San Diego and Pasadena, I checked out eateries in Dana Point, Laguna Beach, and San Clemente, but they all seemed a bit too hoity-toity. Even though San Jaun Capistrano is technically located in the OC, it thankfully feels more rustic than silicone. The restaurant’s website provides further insight:

The Ramos House Café is situated in the heart of the Los Rios Historical District in San Juan Capistrano. It is the oldest remaining residential street in California, Los Rios dates back to 1794 when about 40 adobe structures were constructed to house soldiers and workers overseeing construction of the Mission.

The historical district was incredibly charming and a treat to walk up and down while waiting for Esme to arrive. When my friend finally came, we were seated promptly by the host. All dining at Ramos House is alfresco due to the abundance of sunshine year round.

The Astronomer insisted that we begin our meal with Cinnamon Apple Beignets because they are his weakness. The beignet batter contained tiny pieces of Granny Smith apples, which were deliciously tart and the cream fraiche and caramel sauces added another layer of sweetness. Perhaps a bit too decadent for a starter, but I’m not complaining.

For my entrée, I decided to have another dessert in disguise and ordered the Strawberry Basil Pain Perdu. An impressive mountain of freshly dipped and fried baguette rounds in a pool of strawberry puree topped with whipped cream appeared before me. It tasted as wonderful as it looked, but was much too big for one, so Esme and The Astronomer had to help me kill it. God, it was so good.

The Astronomer enjoyed the Ramos rendition of macaroni and cheese. The extra-large pasta and the roasted vegetables took this American classic to a delicious new level. His only complaint was the wimpy portion size. Esme really liked the cornbread in her salad, but found the chicken too spicy.