100 Favorite OC Dishes, #7: Family-Style Dinner at Mai's Kitchen

100 Favorite OC Dishes, #7: Family-Style Dinner at Mai's Kitchen
Brian Feinzimer

Until I'm lucky enough to be invited by a Vietnamese family to their home for dinner, Mai's Kitchen is, to my knowledge, the only restaurant in Orange County that specializes in Vietnamese family-style home cooking. These are meals that consist of a soup, a protein and a vegetable dish, all of which is served with a communal pot of rice, just as a typical Vietnamese mother would cook for her household any night of the week. 

So skip the entire menu of noodles and apps, and flip to the last page titled "Family Dinner." This is where the good stuff is. As of this writing, is priced at $21.99 for a two-person meal, $41.99 for a four. For the two-person deal, you choose a soup, a protein and a vegetable dish from a list, of which not a single word is in English.

Though I've yet to explore the dozens of other dishes on this "secret" menu, among the most popular are the caramel-lacquered fish was cá kho to, catfish steaks simmered in a glaze of soy, fish sauce and dried chiles, and the taro-stem-and-shrimp soup called canh chua ca hoac tam, a tamarind-soured broth with chunks of pineapple and tomatoes. 

One of the best dishes I've encountered so far was a simmered pork belly with hard-boiled eggs. Akin to Filipino adobo, Japanese kakuni and a dozen other Asian variants, it's probably the homiest dish of all and came with a soy-and-fish-sauce flavored broth that turned my rice into manna from heaven. Even if you don't know what it's called, the best part is that you can describe it to the server in English.

But why not say it in Vietnamese? For the record, it's called th?t kho.

Mai's Kitchen, 9039 Bolsa Ave., Ste. 101, Westminster, (714) 898-9889. 

The List:

8. Sausage Slice At Jinny's Pizzeria
9. Fig and Brie Panini at Eat Chow 
10. Country Ham and Egg Donut at Sidecar Doughnuts 
11. Pastrami Tacos at Lola Gaspar 
12. Chicken Schnitzel at Ironwood 
13. Meatloaf En Croute at Grits Fullerton 
14. Lunch Special at Two Brothers Pizza 
15. Banh Cuon Thit Nuong at Banh Cuon Luu Luyen 
16. Shrimp Quesadilla at Taco Maria 
17. Chihuahua at Mercado Modern Cuisine 
18. Msabaha at Ishtar Mediterranean Grill 
19. Causa (Peruvian Chicken Salad) at Inka Cantina 
20. Jajangmyeon at Beijing Wok & Grill 
21. Spicy Raw Shrimp at Royal King Elephant
22. Stuffed Croissants at Blackmarket Bakery DTSA 
23. Lobster Elote at Dos Chinos 
24. Garlic Noodles at the Kickin' Crab
25. Fish Tacos at Anepalco
26. Sauteed Shrimp at Cafe Hiro 
27. Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken at Playground 
28. Bo Ssam at Mountain 
29. Bentos at Tenkatori 
30. Pork Belly Bites at Coastal Kitchen 
31. Pizza Omelet at Old Vine Cafe 
32. Gorgonzola Bacon Burger at Zov's
33. Falafel Taco at Falasophy 
34. $10.95 Lunch Special at Istanbul Grill 
35. Aporreadillo at El Picante 
36: The Big Mike at C4 Deli 
37. Crab Jalapeños from Carmelita's Kitchen 
38. Combo Plate at Punjabi Tandoor 
39. Crepe Cakes at TeaArias 
40. Bacon and Eggs at Break of Dawn
41. Combo Platter from The Halal Guys 
42. Sunflower Salad from PIE-NOT 
43. Watermelon Salad from Barley Forge Brewing Company 
44. Breakfast Burrito from Pedro's Tacos 
45. Salmon Toast from Haven Gastropub 
46. Croque Madame Sandwich at Café Beau Soleil 
47. Dean's Thai Curry Chicken Pizza 
48. Aguas Frescas at Mar and Terra
49. Bocatas at Olé! Spain Delishop 
50. Pan Con Pollo at El Divino Salvador Del Mundo 
51. Tacos al Vapor at Tito's La Especial 
52. Knafeh at Knafeh Cafe 
53. Yakiudon Nikkei at Aji Limon
54. Yakitori at Electric City Butcher
55. Tsukemen at Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai 
56. Ten Zaru Soba at Tanakaya 
57. Pink Cloud Sandwich at Alicia's Cookery 
58. Homemade Super Nachos at Taqueria Los Santos
59. Strawberry Banana Croissant at Cream Pan 
60. Pla Duk Phat Phet at Vientiane Thai Laos Restaurant 
61. Risotto Con Burrata at Taverna 
62. Pineapple Float at Jollibee 
63. Szechuan Fries at Wok N Tandoor 
64. Banh Xeo at Quan Mii 
65. Chanko Nabe at Torizo 
66. Hamshuka from Hummus Bowl 
67. The Reuben at A Market 
68. Everything Cake from Slice Deli And Cakery 
69. Spicy Shrimp And Eggplant from Brio Tuscan Grille
70. Crawfish Mac & Cheese from The Wharf
71. Malasadas from Dough Doughs Hawaiian Cafe 
72. Salsas from Salsa Bandolera 
73. Chorizo Breakfast Bagel at Spigas Bakery and Cafe 
74. Whole Chicken Combo at Falafelo  
75. Toothpick Lamb at Sichuan Impression 
76. Hainan Chicken Rice at Baos Hog 
77. Fruit- and Ice Cream-Topped Waffles at Crave 
78. Garlic Shrimp Poke at Costco 
79. Chimichurri Fries at Piaggo on Wheels 
80. Torta Cubana at Cancun Juice 
81. Adobo Bowl at Irenia 
82. Garlic Noodles at Krave Asian Fusion 
83. Broccolini at SeaSalt WoodFire Grill 
84. Spicy Tuna Roll at Yard House 
85. Amber Roll at Orange Roll and Sushi 
86. Frito Chili Cheeseburger at Burger Parlor 
87. Maui Sunrise at The Original Banzai Bowls 
88. Meals from The Performance Kitchen 
89. Pizza-Sized Quesadilla at Los Sanchez
90. Filipino Brunch at EATS Kitchen And Bar
91. Mexican Chocolate at the Pie Hole 
92. Biscuits at James Republic 
93. Mushroom Flatbread with Kale and Kumquat Salad at Lemonade 
94. Mexican-Style Gelatins from Santa Ana's Gelatina Goddess 
95. Hot Pastrami Caesar Salad at Bruxie
96. Jalapeño Pupusas at Las Cazuelas
97. Meatball Sliders at Fresh Brothers
98. Buffalo Cauliflower at Mead's Green Door Cafe
99. Raindrop Cake at Sunmerry Bakery
100. Doughrito at Surfin' Donuts


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