The lunar New Year came and passed last weekend, but Asian food rocks all year long. Here's some of the places we've obsessed over for the past couple of months.
Also, congrats to Sandra Sutphen of Yorba Linda for correctly figuring out that I didn't include Laguna Niguel in the Jan. 19 edition of Grub Guide. She gets a free Weekly T-shirt—and you can too! Keep reading Grub Guide for upcoming culinary contests.
DINNER FOR TWO:
¢ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Less than $10!
$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10-$20
$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $20-$40
$$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¡Eres muy rico!
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ÁNH HONG RESTAURANT
Ánh Hong Restaurant in Garden Grove claims to have invented bò bay món—the legendary seven-course Vietnamese dinner that remains the world's ultimate paean to red meat—at its original Saigon location in 1954 by combining the various beef appetizers native to South Vietnam and presenting them with French refinement. Whether that's historical fact or American-style hoo-ha is uncertain, but the classy restaurant does such a superb version of bò bay món and is so boastful of its star serving ("7 Courses of Beef," screams the massive billboard looming over Westminster Boulevard) that we'll take their word for it. 10199 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 537-5230. $$
The yellow curry selection is optimal for those who sport the same color on their bellies, so be brave and step up a spice level to the red curry. Its marvelous mixture of bamboo shoots, bell peppers and coconut milk will give you the sensation of having had sex for two hours in a sauna. 1520 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 978-3905. $
The Japanese are the creators of nikuman, the world's cutest sandwich, which consists of candied, spongy flour wrapped around gingered meats and vegetables. At Diho Bakery, nikuman-type sandwiches are elevated to an art form on par with calligraphy. The taro in particular is a pleasant surprise—not your tiki party's dull, watery poi paste, but instead a jam waiting to be copyrighted by See's.14130 Culver Dr., Ste. J, Irvine, (949) 857-6415. $
This French-Vietnamese hybrid has inexpensive French dishes of the kind that have all but evaporated from our cholesterol-obsessed culture. The fruits de mer au gratin features sweet clams and pungent mussels (both still in their shells), smoky shrimp, bits of fish, and strands of faux crabmeat baked in a terrine of cream sauce rich with butter. As good as it all is, everything else pales beside Favori's beautiful, huge catfish. 3502 W. First St., Santa Ana, (714) 531-6838. $$MITSUYOSHI
Mitsuyoshi, a humble, rock-solid Stanton restaurant patronized by the North County Japanese community, makes a particularly alluring version of sukiyaki, with a heavy, sweet broth packed with thin slices of beef, green onions, cellophane noodles, mushrooms, tofu cubes and bamboo shoots. And in traditional fashion, there's a bowl of raw egg in which to dip the beef strips. 12033 Beach Blvd., Stanton, (714) 898-2156. $$NEWPORT SEAFOOD CHINESE RESTAURANT
Lobster lovers come from all over for these crustaceans heavily dosed with pepper that could make you reach spice heaven. It comes with dessert, including green beans and ice-cold oranges, that balances the meal out nicely. 4411 W. First St., Santa Ana, (714) 531-5146.$$$.SEOUL OAK
A Korean palace—beautiful tables, chandeliers, grand piano—where folks grill their meat or chow through cold noodles or seafood pancakes. Don't bother ordering cake for dessert, though: the sweet hereafter is a wonderful cinnamon drink with floating pine nuts to rinse the garlic from your breath. 8295 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 530-5388. $$ SUNDARA LAO MARKET
Pan-Asian megastore 99 Ranch Market is nice. But what if you want the latest Thai karaoke tape? Or some Burmese action comedy with a heavy dose of romance? Or Hmong-prepared quail eggs? You can find all this and more at Sundara Lao Market. The packed-to-the-roof shop caters primarily to Thais and Laotians, so no chow mein here—only instant pad Thai and more sauces than Heinz.1151 N. Euclid, Ste. C, Anaheim, (714) 758-8349. $ SUPER COROKKE
Super Corokke offers nine different versions of the corokke, a Japanese take on the resolutely down-home croquette: a shot-put-sized cream corokke oozing with a puree of corn, squid and fish that tastes like marine-tinged mashed potatoes; the evocatively named Popeye, filled with spinach strands and bacon bits simultaneously bitter and crispy. Better is the curry corokke, a mash-up that fuses the light, almost imperceptible burn of Japanese curry with some good-ol'-boy crunchiness. 675 Paularino Ave., Ste. C, Costa Mesa, (714) 444-3418. $TAI BUU PARIS BAKERY
Order a bánh mì ga at the takeout counter, and you'll get a shredded-chicken sandwich. If you sit down and order cari ga bánh mì off the menu, though, a waiter will carry out a bowl of chicken curry stewed in turmeric-scented coconut milk; the bread comes as a half-baguette. Make sense? No? Ah, just chomp on the bánh mì thit nuong, barbecued pork seasoned with a restrained hand. 8661 Westminster Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 903-3911. ¢ZIING'S
Ziing's owners consulted a feng shui master during the design, and the results seem to vindicate their expenditure. This applies particularly to the miso-seared ahi, which is sliced and arrayed on a black plate with a red spoon of Shanghai sauce, mixed greens, a cube of wasabi and shiitake-ginger "chopsticks" that look like Vienna roll cookies. The ahi itself is exquisite. 209 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 526-5777. $$Need a restaurant recommendation before our damned dining guide is up and running again? E-mail Gustavo at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he'll answer within the day!