TK Noodle & Grill - Irvine
This isn't quite the same Com Tam Thuan Kieu I knew. It's called Thuan Kieu Noodle & Grill, which is, from what I can see, a rebranded chain owned by different members of the family.
Furthermore, the newly opened restaurant in Irvine's Northpark neighborhood goes by the official title of TK Noodle & Grill, and it serves pho, which the original does not do.
But make no mistake: this is still a Com Tam Thuan Kieu. It says so in big bold letters inside the restaurant itself. And the menu has grand plates of broken rice surrounded by as many as 10 different toppings...yes, I said 10!
I did not try the 10 topping plate, which looks more like a party tray than something one person eats for dinner by himself. So I got the special, a reasonably priced combo of their grilled lemongrass-perfumed chicken, a whole mess of cha gio (deep fried Vietnamese egg rolls), veggies, and dome of broken rice garnished with sautéed green onions. It came with a bowl of hot soup ladled from the pho pot, the scalding liquid sweetened with bits of fried onion and meat to lubricate your mouth in between shovels of rice and meat. And of course, there's plenty of nuoc cham for dousing.
It was in the nuoc cham that I realized, once and for all, that this was truly a Com Tam Thuan Kieu and not some impostor--onion bulbs floated in it, a signature touch of the original.
3951 Irvine Blvd.
Irvine, CA 92602
THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Craftsman Pizza - Placentia