10 Essential Westminster Restaurants

Song Long diet!
Song Long diet!
Kevin Lara

No we haven't done this list yet. Yes, we did a 10 Essential Little Saigon Restaurants list a month ago, which included a lot of Westminster restaurants along with some from Garden Grove; but there are so many essential places inside the city that this list HAS NO OVERLAP with that list!

Do expect Vietnamese restaurants, though. In fact, all on this new list are Vietnamese restaurants, because if you aren't going to Westminster to eat Vietnamese food, you're doing it wrong. But as there are many facets to a diamond, there are many facets to Westminster's Vietnamese eateries. In the list you'll see a restaurant that exists solely because of price point, a noodle joint that doesn't serve pho, a place where you can feast on French cuisine, and another where you can have plate of good ol' steak and eggs.

You got your own Westminster must-go restaurants? Share 'em in the comments!

Dat Thanh
Transculent and transcendent.EXPAND
Transculent and transcendent.
Edwin Goei

This postage-stamp-size of a place only has, at most, four tables. But Dat Thanh's nem nuong rolls are wonderful--every bit the worthy challenger to Brodard's. They make the nem nuong in-house, of course. The chewy, ruddy, half-cylinder cut lengthwise can be compared to a sausage, though it isn't one. It can be said it's kind of like luncheon meat, though it isn't that either. It sports a peppery bite, a tactile and playful texture that bounces back up like a spring-loaded hot dog. But above all you taste the honest, hand-made care behind each porky construct; the Zen-simplicity and translucency of the skin-tight wetted rice paper. There are some noted differences to the Brodard roll. The tucked-in twirled cigar of deep fried egg roll skin is thinner here. And cilantro-averse people should be aware that Dat Thanh's rolls contain chopped bits of the herb mixed in with the lettuce. And then there's the warm, pinkish, thick dipping medium; the nem nuong roll's life-force; the ambrosial liquid that has become, at least in Little Saigon, the secret-sauce of secret-sauces. Brodard's nem nuong sauce has intrigued and beguiled the masses more than anything else, a recipe more guarded than nuclear launch codes. And here it is cracked: Dat Thanh's is everything Brodard's formula is, except spicier, tangier and less sugary, with all of the magic.

Lua Bistrot
Cheap chicken!
Cheap chicken!
Edwin Goei

There's no other way to say it: Lua Bistrot is way too sleek for Little Saigon. Among the neon-lit declarations of tackiness, Lua sticks out like a polished Porsche in a lot full of subcompacts. The restaurant looks good enough for a James Bond-style rendezvous with a smoldering Russian spy. Yet when you look at the prices, you realize how well the place does indeed fit into a neighborhood full of discount noodle joints. This is princely food that's sold at a pauper's price. A fist-sized hunk of filet mignon with its own à-la-minute pan sauce is served with thick, garlic-festooned fries, salad and a fried egg for less than $15. Most everything else-from wok-tossed cubes of beef with onions to fried chicken with rice to com tam with Vietnamese- barbecue pork chops called suong nuong-are even cheaper than that. They've stopped giving out free crème brûlées after their grand opening, but the desserts are still cheap enough so that 007 can put more martinis on MI6's expense budget.

Mi La Cay
Bet on Dac Biet!EXPAND
Bet on Dac Biet!
Edwin Goei

As with any Vietnamese place, order the Dac Biet (which translates to "house special"). In the case of Mi La Cay, this means a big bowl of mi, which is a wheat-based, egg noodle. So don't ask for pho. This is a Chinese Vietnamese noodle house; and as such, specializes in broths more nourishing than amniotic fluid, made from pork, sweetened with rock sugar, and smacking of umami (probably from MSG). Atop the bowl, you'll find torn lettuce leaves, pieces of tender boiled hog, crispy fried cracklings, and a cut of chicken hacked off from a whole fried bird, still on the bone. The latter speaks of the Chinese-ness of the dish. The Chinese believe (and rightly so) that meat on the bone is better, more succulent. As for the fried, breaded shrimp that also floats in the soup? It tastes like cast-offs from Long John Silver's; but still, they're a welcome add-on, especially when dolloped with Sriracha.

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