Is Golden Deli the Best Vietnamese Restaurant in LA?


Definitely the best Vietnamese restaurant
I’ve been to in the LA area. Excellent.

Well, it certainly is the best Vietnamese restaurant I’ve been to in the LA metro area. I’ve lived here for almost fifteen years and strangely I’ve never ventured out to this wonderful Viet outpost in San Gabriel. Many Vietnamese restaurants are devoted primarily to a single item, as evidenced by the profusion of pho-centric joints that litter the Southland. And although I have a primal yen for pho (the justly revered “national dish”of rice noodle & beef soup), there are other dishes that I crave more and find far less.

My mother is Vietnamese and a truly marvelous cook. Of course she makes great pho, but her interests lie beyond such obvious fare. She has made so many marvelous dishes throughout my life, and every family gathering on her side is abundant with delightful and fascinating food. I got to know a wonderful variety of flavor and texture in Vietnamese cuisine, and few restaurants I’ve been to can offer anything close to the vast spectrum of tastes that characterize Vietnamese food. 

Dishes such as bánh xèo, a mung bean crepe filled with bean sprouts, pork, and shrimp; bánh cuôn, a sort of ground pork and woodear mushroom ravioli with a tender rice flour wrapper; bánh bèo bì, little steamed rice pillows topped with ground mung beans, shredded pork, slivers of egg, and sliced scallions; hù tiêú, a wonderful noodle soup with pork, shrimp in a pork broth often served with pickled garlic cloves as a garnish; and bún riêu, another rice noodle soup with a floating raft of crab meat, ground pork, and egg in a tomato-rich seafood broth kicked up with funky shrimp paste – these are dishes that I crave but so rarely find in restaurants. Until now. 

One of the reasons I love my fiance Regina is her fearless quest for delicious food, far and wide. She won’t hesitate to drive 40 minutes or more for a wonderful meal. Making the trek out to San Gabriel has become second-nature to us, and we’ve dragged along a few adventurous friends on our jaunts. Happy Newlyweds Jonathon and Nina joined us on this most recent outing. On a busy Saturday it took us 35 minutes to get there and another 30 waiting for a table to get our grub on. But immediately upon entering we knew we had come to the right place. Everything looked fresh and smelled delicious. Everyone in line was excited and everyone at the tables looked happy.

chąo tôm

Golden Deli is a great restaurant with a huge, varied menu, and so far they nail every single dish I’ve tried. They are known for their chąo tôm, a dish of seasoned ground shrimp wrapped around a stick of sugarcane and then fried or grilled until crisp. The idea is that you remove the cooked shrimp paste from the sugarcane, wrap it with fresh rice paper with lettuce, herbs, and rice noodles. At Golden Deli they come out looking vaguely like seafoody corn dogs, with rice paper and garnishes on the side. They are delicious and the best I’ve ever had. It’s traditional to gnaw on the stick of sugar cane after eating to add a final burst of sweetness to your palate.

chà giò

Chà giò are Vietnamese fried egg rolls, usually with a filling of ground pork, crab or shrimp, veggies, and noodles. Again, like many Vietnamese appetizers, you wrap the hot morsel in fresh lettuce and herbs and dip into a piquant sauce of fish sauce, citrus juice, vinegar, and sugar. The version here is very good, wrapped with crackling rice paper and boasting a filling that is toothsome and flavorful.
bánh bèo bì
Very good too are the bánh bèo bì, the little rice pillows I mentioned before. Slippery and delicious for me, but I think my fellow diners were less enamored than I. They are certainly pretty, everyone agreed.

More to everyone’s taste was the chicken curry called cà-ri gà, which can be served with rice noodles, steamed rice, or a crispy French-style baguette for sopping up the sauce. The mild yellow curry with a touch of coconut milk is just fantastic, and the chicken thighs were simmered to fall-apartness. Topped with cilantro, onions, and fried shallots, the dish scores big comfort-food points. Everyone loved it. 

Gorgeous, comforting chicken curry. 
Also excellent were the delicious salad rolls called goi cuôn (sorry, no picture), the classic fresh roll filled with noodles, salad greens, herbs, pork, and poached shrimp. The rolls were yummy but the requisite peanut sauce was a trifle nondescript. 

Another dish we all loved was the bánh hoi, which

are squares of cooked tiny rice vermicelli formed into thin mesh pancakes. Topped with your choice of meat and green onions, these little noodle nets are wonderful with the assortment of fresh herbs and other garnishes.

The menu had so many other dishes we wanted to try, but this lineup was more than enough for four adults and one seven-year old kid. Looking forward to another visit to explore more. Their fantastic lineup of noodle soups definitely need to be tried.

Service was friendly, btw. Everyone seems to be happy and willing to make the restaurant work well. It’s a good sign to see such a sense of pride in even the busboys.

Try this place. It’s worth the trip.

Just a note: they don’t serve beer and are not tolerant of BYOB. Kind of a shame, since this food would be dynamite with a crisp Southeast Asian brew. 

815 West Las Tunas Dr.
San Gabriel, CA 91776

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