Summer Eats

Part Two

[BREAKFAST] No surprise that the best dim sum in Orange County is in Little Saigon at a strip mall just before Bolsa (if you're driving north on Brookhurst from the 405). It's hard to miss: flags fly atop the restaurant (defunct S. Vietnam, Britain, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, America; of course, no commie flags from China or Vietnam). Dim sum is really brunch, but go there early (10:30 a.m. or so) and miss the lunch crowd. Go with friends—the more the merrier—so you can try more dishes. If you're lucky, you might catch a Vietnamese wedding in a cordoned-off area of the huge dining room (with a singer crooning Vietnamese love songs), or even a press conference by anti-commies. But I go for the food, and at Seafood World, the selection is always fresh. Invariably the women (why are they all women?) pushing the carts of steaming-hot delectables speak to me in Vietnamese. I respond in Cantonese; you can speak English. But no words are necessary—just point to what you want. I could orgasm over the har gow (shrimp in the thinnest rice-flour wrapping), but on my last visit, we tried the twice-as-expensive (still just $4) soy-sauced jellyfish salad, and I was in culinary heaven. It's my revenge for being stung by vicious jellyfish in my youth on a Hong Kong beach. The gai lan (Chinese broccoli) is cooked in front of you and slathered with oyster sauce. For dessert, I always grab a miniature custard tart. They come three to a plate and taste as good as any French pastry. [LUNCH] Go north from Seafood World up Brookhurst, and on the left as you turn onto Bolsa, in the heart of Little Saigon, is a perfect place to escape the hot sun. Thanh's dining room is bright and kewl, lined with tall, potted plants swaying in the breeze from ceiling fans. It's as if you're in the other Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City), sans the oppressive humidity. The bilingual (Vietnamese/English) menu—108 items ranging from bo nuong (BBQ beef) to hu tieu (noodle soup) to com (rice)—is a gastronomic delight. It's also cheap: the costliest dishes top off at $6.95. But I wanted a light lunch, so I went for my usual: the precisely named rice with bean-curd skin wrap with shrimp and barbecued pork chop ($4.95), which I drowned in a dish of nuoc mam (fish sauce) topped with slivered carrots and turnip. The tofu-wrapped shrimp tempted me, and it is worth every bite. As a side order, I got the $1.50 bowl of bo vien (beef balls) that evoked further memories of my childhood, when I skipped home-cooked meals to eat at the ubiquitous street food stalls in Kowloon. But this tiny dish decades later is better; the soup is spiced with grated onions and preserved cabbage, and the meatballs are quartered. Undoubtedly, the meatballs contained MSG, which I usually avoid, but hell, one has to have some vices. The daring can also try chao (congee, or rice in soup): there're eight varieties, including those with intestine or pork blood. [DINNER] On the northern edge of Westminster (bordering Garden Grove), and next to the more famous Seafood Paradise (which also serves dim sum but is known for its $7.99-per-pound lobsters), lies the smallish Peking Restaurant. Despite its name, it is really a Mandarin-cuisine establishment, best known for its sumptuous and meaty kuo tieh (pan-fried dumplings) and chiao tze (pork or shrimp boiled dumplings). (They also offer homemade noodle soups.) But we've had lunch, and with a fellow KUCI public-affairs news-show host, we choose the four-person family dinner (for once, he's paying) at $26.50, even though there're only two of us. We get to choose four items from a long list of 19 dishes, including steamed fish. What a deal! I've had the fish before (you must try it), but this time, we go for something different. The chicken with shrimp and Chinese pea pods is just right, with crunchy bright-green pea pods perfectly cooked. The shrimp omelet (Chinese style) surprises me. My Caucasian food partner raves about it; I think it's weird—an omelet for dinner? Crazy gweilo (foreign devil)! The crab meat with bean curd excites me: tofu used to be just the itinerant poor man's food, but now it graces the best tables. Its smooth, soft texture turns me on as I swirl the tofu inside my mouth ("grinding tofu" is Chinese slang for lesbian). The owner (who thinks I am a lawyer from the Chinese news accounts of my fighting police abuse) offers my perennial favorite as the fourth dish, something not even on the family-dinner list—chopped mustard greens with strips of pork, as well as soybeans mixed with pieces of spicy hot peppers. It's a delightful way to top off the meal. (Daniel C. Tsang) Seafood World Chinese Restaurant, 15351 Brookhurst St., Stes. 101-106, (714) 775-8828; Thanh, 9872 Bolsa Ave., (714) 531-3888; Peking Restaurant, 8566 Westminster Ave., (714) 893-3020.


Okay, so I've never eaten [BREAKFAST]—or any other meal—at the Original Pancake House. I've never even been inside the damn building —they close at 2 p.m. every day, and I keep getting there late. But it sure looks like it must be good, all homey and everything, with frilly curtains in the windows to preserve an endearing, idealistic small-town innocence. And anyway, restaurants can't really do too much damage to breakfast, so how bad could it be? It's original! It's pancakes! It's housed in a building that used to be a Koo Koo Roo—which is, like, total corporate food! Now, for our next trick, we'll review concerts that we've never gone to! But we have been to Fitness Pizza & Grill for [LUNCH] many times and have never had a bad meal, even though the room's dťcor looks like an ugly LA industrial-dance bar. The oval-shaped thin-crust pizzas have deceptively healthy names like Triathlete, Iron Man and Gymnast (it is pizza, after all, but they claim that they're all very low in fat); the pasta and sandwich selections make you wanna hunt up extra tummy room; and their salads are made with all sorts of exotic-looking plants and greens that you're tempted to take home and smoke, just to see what'll happen. For a Yorba Linda [DINNER], it can only be the Blue Agave, a fantastically fabulous Southwestern place where everything on the menu—no, really, everything—is nothing short of orgasmic. But if you stop in only once, be sure to at least order the Montego Bay coconut-shrimp appetizer—big, plump prawns fried in shredded-coconut batter and served with an orange-chipotle marmalade for dipping—and thank us later. (RK) The Original Pancake House, 18639 Yorba Linda Blvd., (714) 693-1390; Fitness Pizza & Grill, 18246 Imperial Hwy., (714) 993-5421; Blue Agave, 18601 Yorba Linda Blvd., (714) 970-5095.

Summer Eats, Part One

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