Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hanoi Avenue -- Vietnamese at its best

Ha Noi Avenue
8432 Westminster Ave, Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 898-8838

Ever feel like you go to a Vietnamese restaurant and only one or two items are truly fantastic? I've often felt that way whenever I go with family or friends and everyone has different taste buds. I might want pho, my husband bun, my son, com but not all of us will be satisfied when we leave.

Ha Noi Avenue has managed to be the one restaurant I've come across which excels in almost everything on the menu -- at least, everything I've tried to date. The owners used to own Ha Noi Restaurant on Bolsa and had not planned to start another business, but opportunity came calling and hence, Ha Noi Avenue came to fruition.

I've been there on my own and with my family. Either way, you can be sure you will leave satisfied and satiated if Vietnamese food is your thing. It's definitely MY thing! I love Vietnamese food. When I'm on my own, I have a bowl of noodles and the bun rieu or bun rieu oc are just fabulous. The broth is light and refreshing with a very clean finish. If you like snails or periwinkles are they are called, order the bun rieu oc. Otherwise, stick to the bun rieu. Chunks of crab roe hide under the white thin noodles. Break off the mint and basil and dunk it into your piping hot bowl of bun rieu for an added aromatic flavor. Julienned lettuce and beansprouts create a nice crunchy texture to the softness of the noodles.

Steamed chicken is also perfectly tender and moist. I wasn't very fond of the accompanying garlic sauce, but if you order pho ga, then these exact same chunks of chicken will arrive in your bowl of soupy noodles and you wouldn't need to dip it.

Bo luc lac or shaking beef arrives sizzling and splattering on a hot plate atop sliced onions which end up nicely caramelized. Apart from this dish being a tad oily, the flavor is so fulfilling you probably will overlook the greasiness.

Cha ca thang long or dill turmeric fish also arrives on a hot plate although not quite as spit splattering as the beef. Make sure you quickly move the dill under the fish so it wilts -- wilting the dill intensifies its flavor. Take a little of the noodles, put it into your bowl, drizzle a little of the shrimp paste sauce, break apart some perilla (shiso) leaves, mint, basil into the same bowl and now, take a chunk of fish with some of the dill and enjoy. It's quite addictive really!

We also tried an item not on the menu. Trung duc is an omelette similar to egg foo yung. Our's had crabmeat (real crabmeat, not krab!), wood ear fungus and glass noodles in it. We were lucky that the lady owner was on hand to give us some recommendations!

If you're adventurous, let the owner steer you in the right direction. She's extremely personable and quite the hostess. Your dining experience will be THAT much better if you just let yourself go.

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