Monday, November 07, 2005

Brodard - Garden Grove



Behind a 99-Cent-Only store, hidden in a dank alley-way, past the dumpsters, you will find one of Little Saigon's finest restaurants; Brodard.

The brightly lit dining room buzzes with activity. It is the size of a high school gymnasium, with giant Christmas ornaments inexplicably dangling over the entrance. The servers are quick and efficient as dishes fly out of the kitchen and diners slump over bowls of noodle soup, slurping with gusto.

We started with the signature item, the Nem Nuong Cuon ($6.00 for an order of 4); a spring roll to put others you've may have had cowering in shame. Nem Nuong, the thing that the restaurant is known for, is a ruddy and dense pork or shrimp concoction which isn't quite a sausage and not really a meatball, but a harmonious fusion of the two. Its springy texture offers the slightest resistance to the teeth, and the taste is close to SPAM without all that salt.

A slender piece of the Nem Noung is grilled until slightly charred. Then, it is wrapped tautly inside transculent rice paper. Also encased in suspended animation inside this tight tubular construct is; a sliver of crisp cucumber; torn leaves of butter lettuce; a crunchy stick of deep fried egg roll skin; and a sprig of scallion, which protrudes outside the bundle like a sprout reaching for the sun.

All the players of the spring roll peer out through the thin, luminous rice-paper membrane, waiting to leap when you take a bite.

On the side, for your dunking pleasure, a bowl of warm sauce awaits. It is sweet and murky thick with pureed garlic.



As soon as you plant your chompers into the tightly wound roll, it unfurls in your mouth with the smoky bite of the grilled Nem Noung playing front and center, while the fried egg roll skin provides an unexpected, teeth-jarring crunch. Then, the icy cold crispness of the cucumber and lettuce refreshes like an ice cold shower on a balmy day. Immediately afterwards the herbaceousness of the green onion and the warm sauce you've used to dunk, fill the sinuses with a garlicky and oniony burn.

It's a good first start to this, or any meal, for that matter. A salad and an appetizer in one.

Next was the Com Tam Bi Cha Thit Nuong ($5.95). It's a pork-a-palooza on an oblong dish with a mound of broken rice as the stage. The performers are three distinctly different preparations of pork.

The headliner is the grilled slices of marinated pork, sweet and tender, in a fairly straightforward preparation . The second act which looks like pork confetti, is moist and wispy; a light touch on the tongue. If they could make a slurpable noodle from pork, this would be it. The final act is a wedge of Vietnamese egg quiche which has in eggy suspension, ground pork and diced wood ear mushroom. It has a bright, pumpkin-colored rind made from egg yolk and tastes like Vietnamese comfort food.



The three provide a rounded and satisfying sample of the pig. But all would not be complete without requisite bowl of Nuoc Cham (sweetened fish sauce), which ties everything together. Also present is some roughage in the form of lettuce, sliced cucumber, tomato, and housemade pickles. Its function is to cleanse the palate between the spoonfuls of meat and rice you're going to stuff your face with.

Our last dish was Mien Xao Cua ($9.25), stir fried glass noodle with crab. Listed as one of Brodard's specialties, it reminded me of a similar Korean dish called "chap chae", except that this one was more deeply flavored with fish sauce and spiked with barely wilted scallions and red onion.



Another distinguishing factor of the dish was the abundance of crab meat that is generously strewn about. Pleasantly flaky, these fresh morsels weren't the least bit fishy and made me wonder how they could charge so little for this dish when Joe's Crab Shack could charge upwards to $20 for a just few ounces of crabmeat.

Brodard Restaurant
(714) 530-1744
9892 Westminster Ave
Garden Grove, CA 92844

30 Comments:

At 8:47 AM, Anonymous Kirk said...

Hi Elmo - when we lived in LA we actually tried to find this place! But couldn't. Looks and sounds awesome.

 
At 10:09 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Kirk,

It's definitely a challenge to find. It's not facing the street so it looks like you're driving into the loading docks of the 99-Cent-Only store.

I might go as far as to say that you have to have someone who's already been there in the car with you, like a sherpa guide in the Himalayas.

 
At 10:40 AM, Blogger Christine D. said...

Oh heck yeah, I love Brodard! Those nem nuong cuons...mmm.

I was watching Iron Chef America last night and the challenger, Chef Douglas, made some nuoc cham and totally butchered its pronunciation! Like: New-Awk Chom. My sister didn't even know that he said nuoc cham. haha.

But your post reminded me that I'm long overdue for a meal at Brodard's...

 
At 12:43 PM, Blogger Kimberly said...

Yay, Brodard. Funny-- I was on the 22 today on a work errand and I was trying to get to Brodard in a reasonable time, but then there was all this construction and it would have taken me forever to get there... wah! Anyway, hi, I am a fellow food blogger, Brodard was actually my first entry. :)

 
At 1:47 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Christine,

This was my first time at Brodard...should've tried it sooner!

Iron Chef America is an awesome show BTW. Even if it lost some of the cheesiness that was so endearing in the dubbed Japanese version.



Kimberly,

I just found your blog and linked it to mine. It's good to know there are more O.C. bloggers out there!

Nice Brodard review by the way.

 
At 4:02 PM, Blogger eatdrinknbmerry said...

elmo, brodard definitely servese some of the best tasting nem nuong rolls. One time i went there, i spent a good 10 minutes staring at the people in charge of making these heavenly rolls. I even asked the cashier what was in the 'special sauce'. She gave me a look and was like "why?" haha.

i'm guessing that special sauce is made of chilis, garlic, coconut cream, fish sauce and MAYBE finely minced yolk or egg whites. and starch to add the final thickening. i've made the same Brodard rolls for a party and they were gone in like 10 minutes... and using fish sauce is perfectly fine. Too much of that special sauce actually makes me kinda sick. Nice post.

 
At 5:10 PM, Blogger MEalCentric said...

damn Elmo, that sounds great right about now. I havent been out to Westminster in a month or so, I think I just decided where my next trip will be.

 
At 7:14 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Dylan,

That mystery sauce does add something to the spring roll. The ingredients you list sounds about right. Though I don't think I'll attempt to make it on my own. I'd just screw it up.

Those ladies assembling the rolls have their game on. That window you can look in from the outside into the kitchen is cool.


Mealcentric,

I hope Brodard lives up to the food you had in Vietnam!

 
At 1:45 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

Holy shit, that all looks amazing. Truth be told I'm a Westminster/ Garden Grove area virgin. Time to end that sorry state of affairs soon. And I think Brodard is the place to do it.

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Jessica,

The traffic is just as bad or worse here in Little Saigon as in the downtown L.A., but those spring rolls are a fitting reward!

 
At 4:45 PM, Blogger Eddie Lin said...

You're writing style has become quite journalistic. I smell more assignments!

 
At 2:30 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Eddie,

Thanks man! I guess the lessons of my high school journalism class are kickin' in.

 
At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Bram said...

Thanks for finding this one. I've been looking for a great local vietnamese restaurant. Since I live in food hell AKA Yorba Linda, I've been salivating about making the trek to Saigon Flavors in Alhambra. But now, it looks like I can get my favs in Bolsa.

 
At 2:32 AM, Anonymous RWCFoodie said...

Elmo, I'm glad to hear that Brodard is still alive and well! A couple of years ago while at Disneyland I dragged my husband off to the wilds of Little Saigon to Brodard because I'd read a review that was linked on Chowhound. It mentioned Roast Duck Salad. It was simply the best thing ever. The Nem Nuong rolls were terrific. To me, it's almost worth going to Southern Calif. just to visit Brodard! Thanks for your site.

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Bram and rwcfoodie,

Little Saigon is *the* destination for Vietnamese food (if it isn't already evident by the name), and Brodard, I think, is *the* destination in Little Saigon for a fully-rounded menu and inarguably the best the nem nuong rolls. There are other restaurants worth exploring for on Bolsa Rd. to be sure.

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger john said...

I was lead to this place by a close vietnamese friend of mine. I had 8 rolls my first time there~!

A couple of things mentioning:
try the Goi Ga - Steamed Chicken Mixed Salad. Not only is your mound of salad loaded with chicken, it is decorated w/ oversized crunchy "wanton" shells. You can choose to add the spicy fish sauce or not.

They also have a very wide assortments of "dessert" drinks. The House Speical Drink is layered w/ semi sweet beans, pudding jellies, sweet red beans and ice.

 
At 6:42 PM, Anonymous Kyle said...

I love Brodard's! Definitely my favorite vietnamese restaurant and I've been to around 5 or 6 in the Garden Grove/Westminister area. The food is always excellent. The rolls are delicious. My favorite item is the bun with the bbq pork.

 
At 11:28 PM, Blogger OC Paul said...

Brodard has recently opened Brodard Bistro on Trask at Magnolia. From the moment you enter, you know that you're in for a treat. The decor is BY FAR the most sophisticated, upscale and even sexy of any Vietnamese restaurant in Orange County. Of course, they offer the goi cuon but we stayed away from that and ordered more unusual house specialties. The beef salad is incredible. Unlike Thai beef salad which is very spicy and is primarily beef and cucumbers, Viet beef salad here can actually be eaten as a salad entree. We ordered family style and everyone agreed that the beef salad was the best dish among many other good dishes.

 
At 9:30 PM, Blogger Ami said...

I cannot believe that I lived up the street from here for three years and never knew this was there!

We were the only non-Asian people there by ourselves... everyone else was with Asian/Vietnamese friends.

The spring rolls were as good as you said... we also ordered (I wish I could remember what it was called) tempura sweet potato with shrimp that came in a big boat with lettuce, mint and pickles and a fish sauce. OH YUM.

And the Mien Xao Cua? I don't like crab that much (it's more my DH's thing) but it was so flavorful... like wonderful bursting marbles of savory flavors.

Thanks for the tip... we want to go back and go back and go back.

 
At 10:38 PM, Anonymous viet food fan said...

yes the spring rolls and special sauce are delicious. but from my many visits to the brodard (westminster/brookhurst), i've learned that i am more content with their take-out service, rather than their sit-down service. last time i went there, i took 3 other friends to brag about the food. to my embarrasment, each one of our orders came out 10 minutes apart, and an order of congee (porridge) didnt arrive for at least 45 minutes. hopefully the new location off trask has better service.

 
At 9:00 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Hi everyone,

Glad you guys liked Brodards (even though the service can be spotty sometimes). I'm there every month. Can't get enough of those nem nuong rolls. And that SAUCE! It surely must have some sort of illicit substance to be THAT good!

 
At 9:44 PM, Blogger love2eat said...

Hi Elmo,

I tried brodard twice and I think it's okay. I actually found a place that also serves nem in Rosemead called Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa. Their nem nuong cuon not only taste better but it is also cheaper. Their banh beo and bun bo hue is also a signature dish. Just thinking about it makes me hungry...mmm

 
At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They have a new one that's easier to locate. The prices are higher since the atmosphere is nicer:

Brodard Chateau
9100 Trask Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92844
http://www.brodard.net/chateau/overview.html

 
At 7:01 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

love2eat,

Thanks for the tip! I'll have to check it out. I love those nem nuong rolls, no matter where they are from.

Anon,

Yup, I've been eyeing that place forever. I'm going to finally go soon and see for myself!

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger yummy in my tummy said...

Hi love2eat,

I love nem cuon (rolls) so I took your advice and tried it at Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa in Rosemead. This place is awesome and super good...mmm.. I always thought Brodard had the best nem.Since then, I've gone to Ninh Hoa 5 times in a month with friends and family. It's quite a drive from bolsa but it's definitely worth it. Elmo, you have to try it..hehe

 
At 11:38 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

Oh My God Brodards rolls are soooo unbelieveably good. Yum yum.

 
At 2:43 PM, Anonymous Alyssa Vu said...

are none of you people vietnamese? The only thing I thought of when I went to Brodard was: Overpriced mediocre vietnamese food for white people.

 
At 3:03 PM, Blogger Scotty Tran said...

Oh wow, I can't believe I never saw this. I've gone there about a dozen times. Family meet ups with other relatives that live far away, and we always get nem nuong cuons, I order that as a meal for myself when I'm not particularly hungry. Glad you reviewed this place and gave it a plus. =)

 
At 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The same family that owns Brodard also opened a smaller (ie. cramped) version of their restaurant in Corona del Mar called Bamboo Bistro. It's right off PCH next to a Chevron. If you don't want to travel all the way up to Little Saigon, this place has all the same dishes. And I highly recommend the curried sea bass.

 
At 7:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks and sounds awesome.

 

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