A while back I was in the Little Saigon area, and being quite hungry, I was in the mood for a Cơm tấm (broken rice) dish. Almost right across Viendong Restaurant is Com Tam Thuan Kieu, which with over a hundred different combinations of item topping broken rice, you could say, ahem.... specializes in Com Tam.
The restaurant itself is fairly neat, and no frills, reminding me of a more run down Banh Cuon Tay Ho. The service is also no frills, you sit, menu arrives and you order, if you're able to pick out what you want from the huge amount of items. There's a steady stream in and out of the restaurant as all the men seem to need to step out for a smoke before, during, and after a meal. In fact, if you have a problem finding the place, just look for all the men smoking......
Chilies, chili paste, and fish sauce, the standard seasonings are provided. I chuckled when I saw the spoons labeled as "spoon" and the forks as "fork", I would have never known. Want some hot tea? Mine was delivered in a large water glass. The knife was delivered with the Nuoc Mam Cham, which wasn't watered down, like some versions in San Diego.
Like I mentioned before, the menu seems to be an endless list of com tam "combinations"..... it is a classic case "Vietnamese menu overload", if I've ever seen it. There are a couple of gut-busting combinations which run up to nine bucks, and includes everything you can think of. Even the seven item combinations, like what Elmo had is enough for a family of two. I went with my tried and true Com Tam Bi Cha Tan Hu Ky Thit (Broken Rice with shredded pork skin, steamed egg, shrimp paste in bean curd skin and charbroiled pork), which at $6.25 is to me, a bargain.
The charbroiled pork looked tough, but was fairly tender, and the marinade was less sweet than most versions. The Bi was nicely flavored but a bit on the dry side, which the nuoc mam cham easily fixed. The Cha, the steamed egg with pork skin and cloud ear fungus was very good, perhaps a bit on the dry side, but chocked full of earthy flavors. They didn't skimp on the fungus in this version.
The Tan Hu Ky really wasn't my favorite, as I enjoy a nice crisp and light bean curd skin, and this was soggy. The shrimp paste was a bit too "squeaky" for me, but the flavor was good. The com tam was fairly fragrant and moist, and better than just about anything in San Diego.
While eating, I was wondering why my meal didn't come with any broth. Well, just as I was finishing up, a bowl of broth was dealt out on my table.... sigh..... Here's another variation of the "appetizer sin", you know, when your appetizers come at the end of your meal. I guess in this case, the broth was dessert?
Along with marking the forks and spoons, serving my hot tea in a water glass, and my soup arriving when I had just finished my meal, I thought the door to the restroom was kinda, well, odd. It was lined with stainless steel looking more like a walk-in door than one for the restroom. It made me feel like I was going into a "deep freeze".
Speaking of deep freeze, I'd been sitting on these photos for a while, thinking I'd be returning. But it just seems like that won't be happening for a while, so I hope you don't mind a very short post.
Com Tam Thuan Kieu
14282 Brookhurst St Ste 2
Garden Grove, CA 92843