Last weekend, the Missus really wanted to drop by Portola Coffee Labs.....She has become a real coffee nerd. She's got all the gear to make pour-over coffee.....
Anyway, on the way down to the OC we started getting hungry. This gave us the perfect chance to check out a place I'd been wanting to try for a while; Ha Noi Avenue.
We really don't get to this end of Westminster Boulevard very often and I was hankering for some Bun Cha.
As with many businesses, this was obviously some kind of fast food joint....you could still see the drive thru lane and speaker board outside. The restaurant isn't very large, but is quite clean. Most of the customers were in rather large groups...families. And all were eating just about the same thing; Bun Cha, Cha Ca Thang Long, and Banh Tom, all the trappings of Northern Vietnamese Food.
I read of some instances where service was lacking, but we didn't experience any of that....in fact, the guy serving us was kind of, well jovial in a way. When we placed our order, he smiled gave us the "thumbs up" and said, "good....good!" Apparently he approved.
Just the fragrance of the bun cha took us back to Bun Cha Dak Kim in Hanoi. While it was not nearly as good.....it was good enough. All the base flavors were there; the ground pork patty was a bit on the large size and not quite as tender, but the flavors, salty-sweet-savory-porky were just what the doctor ordered.
On another note, the bun here was perfectly prepared....just the right texture for me; not overly sticky or mushy.
When I saw Nem Cua Bể (crab spring rolls) on the menu, I had ot have it.
While not nearly as flavorful as #1 Hang Manh, lacking in the amount of savory flavors (crab) and not as light as I prefer, this was still not bad. Crisp, molten, and lovely with lettuce and a dunk in the nuoc mam cham.
The only real clunker was the Cha Ca Thang Long.
The fish, while moist was very bland. We've gotten used to all the flavors from Song Long's version of Cha Ca, amking this seem puny and missing some parts we enjoy like the fried shallots and peanuts. The mam nem was really watered down and weak. We'll pass on this next time and go for the Banh Tom instead.
Ha Noi Avenue
8432 Westminster Blvd
Westminster, CA 92683
Wed - Mon 830am - 830pm
It's kind of nice to have all these options if we want a breakfast/lunch, we can go with the Cha Ca Thang Long at Song Long which opens at 9, or some Hue favorites at Ngu Binh which also opens at 9, or if we're in the mood for Banh Cuon we can go to Pho Tau Bay which opens at 8......
In the end, the missus got Her coffee beans at Portola, I got a cup of Kyoto Drip cold brew. And we got a nice little trip down memory lane. To a place crowded wall to wall with people, steep and skinny stairs leading up to an almost communal dining area, at #1 Hang Manh.......
It was wonderful taking that trip in my mind, down the dusty streets, dodging motorbikes, and eating like crazy in edgy Hanoi.....
I think it might almost be time for another trip.....