Vien Dong is a Vietnamese restaurant different than the ones in the SGV I usually eat at. Instead of just concentrating on dishes like pho and bun, Vien Dong has more of a northern Vietnamese focus. I chose to go to this restaurant because I wanted to taste what the difference between the north and south was.
Maybe not the best example of their disparity, but I ordered the fried spring rolls as an appetizer. I have to admit that I can never resist these when they’re on any menu. The spring rolls came hot and crispy, which was a sign of good dishes to come. The rice-wrapper used in these spring rolls fry up perfectly while still retaining a bit of their chewiness in the inner layers.
I saw that many people had recommended getting the sizzling plate of turmeric fish with dill and decided to follow the crowd. The plate indeed was dangerously hot and sizzling when they brought it out. Turmeric-yellow fish was piled high with slices of onion and many healthy sprigs of dill. This came with a plate of lettuce and fried sesame and rice chips, which I used to make something like a fish taco with crumbled chips inside and lettuce on the outside. Only a small drizzle of the potent and pungent shrimp sauce was needed to make a complete and balanced bite. Although I’m not usually a fan of pairing a mild white fish with strong spices, I really liked this dish.
There was also a noodle soup dish with a tomato-based broth and sea snails which caught my eye. Luckily, my dining companion was not squeamish at all about the snails, so we ordered a bowl to share. The broth was red, savory goodness thanks to the earthy flavor of the snails and the small bits of crab. The tender, free-form meatballs were the highlight of this dish and almost melted in my mouth from being so loosely packed. The sea snails had a strong, earthy flavor as evident in the broth, but were a bit chewy, so maybe not for everyone.
I’m a fiend for a good bowl of noodle soup, so it makes me sad to think that Vien Dong is such a trek from where I am. If it were in the SGV, I can see myself returning again and again just for the noodle soup with sea snails.
Vien Dong Restaurant
14271 Brookhurst St
Garden Grove, CA 92843