I don’t find myself in Garden Grove very often (more like never), but when I do it’s always centered around a meal at Brodard for an order or two of their trademark nem nuong cuon, Tucked away inside the Mall of Fortune, Brodard is somewhat of an iconic restaurant for the nation’s second-largest Vietnamese community, evidenced by the throng of people consistently crowded around the entrance waiting to hear their name called. Admittedly, there’s still a lot of the menu that I’ve yet to explore, but the answer to that problem is a simple one – keep on coming back.
Nem nuong Cuon / Chao Tom Cuon [$7 for 4] | 2 rolls each of grilled pork & shrimp paste
Ah, yes the spring rolls. These are the reason why people come to Brodard in droves, the wait sometimes approaching an hour but nobody seeming to mind. What makes them so damn good? Consistency, for one, as you can count on them with the same certainty as death and taxes. Each element comes together harmoniously inside the slightly gelatinous rice paper wrapper, the ratio of meat to veggie is spot-on, with crisp lettuce, green onion, carrot and daikon complimenting the stronger flavors of marinated grilled pork and crispy shrimp paste. You’re first time you’ll probably think it smart to get an order to share for the table, until you take that first bite and realize you want them all to yourself.
On their own the spring rolls are divine. However, the accompanying sauce is what really sets them off, a tightly-kept secret recipe blend that manages to encompass just about every element of flavor: salty, sweet, pungent, and garlicky, yet never overwhelming in any one regard. The consistency is like a combination of sweet and sour soup and Korean soybean paste, viscous and perfect for coating the nem nuong.
Banh Khot [$6.95 for 7] | mini crispy rice cakes filled with whole shrimp, mung bean & scallions, flavored with a dash of tumeric
What these “luna rice cakes” had going for them in terms of appearance seemed to be missing when it came to their taste. The delicate, crepe-like baskets were actually rather tasteless save for an odd underlying note of coconut that seemed to mask anything else going on. I was able to enjoy the banh khot a lot more when i drizzled them with a blend of fish sauce, lime juice, and salt and pepper, and wrapped them in a piece of lettuce with some pickled carrots and daikon and a sprig of mint.
Bo Luc Lac (Shaken Beef) [$11.25] | filet mignon in chunks wokked with onion, mushroom, scallion & spices
Aside from pho and the spring rolls above, bo luc lac is probably the next most popular Vietnamese dish. It’s also a great item for those new to the cuisine as the flavors and ingredients here are familiar. Fresh, crisp vegetables and succulent chunks of beef are stir-fried in a wok, coated with a sweet, garlicky glaze, and served with steamed (or fried) rice. The key here is that the glaze is just that, a glaze, and not a puddle of sauce that overpowers both the plate and the palate.
Though Garden Grove will, for most of you, remain just another freeway exit passed without a second glance en route to some other destination, locals and adventurous eaters alike will continue to line up outside of Brodard’s for spring rolls and other Vietnamese fare as if it was the only restaurant in the area, and with food this good, it might as well be.
9892 Westminster Ave.
Garden Grove, CA 92844
Dine date: Mon 06.17.13, 1:30p