Best Vietnamese Restaurant Orange County 2012 - Dat Thanh
The best of second-wave Vietnamese restaurants need to appeal to elders, second-generation Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese alike; to adhere to hole-in-the-wall principles while updating the service and décor to this new land; and to specialize in one dish (the requisite dac biet) while mastering the rest of the menu. Dat Thanh does it all. It first became famous for its nem nuong con, barbecue-pork spring rolls filled with egg-roll shells that all of Little Saigon subsequently copied, but it can also nail broken rice dishes, bún and grilled meats with the ease of munching through a goi cuon. Yet the family that runs Dat Thanh doesn't rest on its laurels: son Hai Nguyen works the floor as though an MC, striking up conversations in English and Vietnamese, flipping the flat-screen television between Paris By Night productions and the local news. Nguyen could easily open a bigger restaurant, but he prefers his slice of strip-mall heaven, the better to excel for all.