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Southeast Asian

Hak Heang. In the Little Phnom Penh neighborhood of Long Beach is Hak Heang — all glowing neon, elaborate live-seafood tanks and yawning seas of tables, waitresses whipping around the room with endless streams of Tsingtao, fried fish and sputtering skewers of Cambodian shish kebab. The anchovy beef, a small, marinated steak grilled medium rare, sliced thin, and served with a relish of shaved raw eggplant, fermented fish, garlic and a little vinegar, is a rare Cambodian dish that would make almost as much sense at a country restaurant in southern Piemonte as it would along the banks of the Tônlé Sap. 2041 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 434-0296. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days 8 a.m.–9 p.m. Full bar. Lot parking. Takeout. Cash only. Dinner for two, $18–$28. Cambodian. JG ¢

Kuala Lumpur. Ronnie Ng is the maestro of Malaysian cooking in Los Angeles, and his Pasadena restaurant is a great introduction to one of Asia’s most pleasant, most accessible cuisines. Here, you’ll find the pungent, spicy salad known as rojak; crisp coriander chicken; and an epochal nasi lemak, rice boiled with coconut milk and pandan leaves, then mounded in the middle of a platter and surrounded by little heaps of exotic garnishes. Be sure to order a bowl of the rich, chile-stained curry laksa, bathed in a rich coconut broth. 69 W. Green St., Pasadena, (626) 577-5175. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Sun. 5:30–9:15 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated lot parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $4.95–$12.95. Malaysian. JG ¢ *

Lee’s Sandwiches. Banh mi are the Vietnamese equivalent of submarine sandwiches, with charcuterie and vegetables smeared with mayonnaise, laid into a baguette, and wrapped in a neatly folded sheet of paper. In the assembly line at Lee’s Sandwiches — a small chain of restaurants centered around bright, clean kitchens that seem to stretch into infinity — teams of sandwich makers slice hot baguettes in half and neatly layer meat and condiments. Bakers march across the kitchen bearing trays of freshly baked French bread. A quick drive along Valley Boulevard reveals Ba Le, Baguette Express, Baguette du Jour, Banh Mi So 1, and a brand-new Alhambra outlet of Lee’s, among a dozen other places to buy the tasty sandwiches. 1289 Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (626) 282-5589. Seven days, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot Parking. Sandwiches, $1.50–$3.50. Cash only. Vietnamese-European. JG ¢ *

Le Saigon. An itty-bitty, gloriously inexpensive Vietnamese café just west of the Royal movie theater, Le Saigon is an ideal place to huddle over big bowls of pho or bun (rice noodles), charbroiled meats and glasses of sticky sweet café sua da (iced Saigon coffee). The tables are tiny, the turnover is swift, and the air is scented by grilling meat and freshly cut cucumbers. 11611 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 312-2929. Tues.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. Entrées $5–$8. Vietnamese. MH ¢ *

Mr. Baguette. Mr. Baguette, a Vietnamese sandwich shop in Rosemead, makes its own high-quality charcuterie — ham and headcheese and steamed pork loaves — that it sells separately by the pound, and bakes its own baguettes. There are fresh fruit smoothies, ham and cheese croissants, Vietnamese iced coffee, and pickled vegetables that come packaged separately from the banh mi sandwiches in little Baggies, so that you can garnish yours to taste. For a quarter extra, you can get the banh mi made on a fresh baguette frosted with toasted sesame seeds. 8702 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead, (626) 288-9166. Seven days, 6 p.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Sandwiches, $2–$3.95. Cash only. Vietnamese-French. JG ¢ *

Palm Thai. Palm Thai may be the most famous Thai supper club in Hollywood — with Thai tour buses often parked out front. The food is first-rate. Bar snacks include crisp-skinned Thai sour sausages served with fried peanuts and raw cabbage and beef jerky, fried to a tooth-wrenching chaw. There is a proper papaya salad, the unripe fruit shredded into crunchy slaw, with taut chile heat, sweet-tart citrus dressing and the briny sting of salt-preserved raw crab. And Palm Thai prepares the best version in town of suea rong hai, northeastern-style barbecued beef. You can request a second menu, which includes most of Palm Thai’s best dishes: fiery salads, Isaan-style bar snacks and elaborate soups. 5273 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 462-5073. Lunch and dinner seven days 11 a.m.–mid. (until 1:30 a.m. Fri.–Sat.). Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $18–$40. Thai. JG $ ¨ H

Phong Dinh. Phong Dinh is located just where you might speed up on the way to a little catch-and-release at the lakes in Whittier Narrows, probably untempted by the restaurant’s screaming neon promise of “World Famous Baked Fish.” But when the fish lands on your table, mouth agape like Aaron Brown deprived of a Teleprompter, it is a sweet-smelling thing, still sizzling, lolling on a platterful of mixed greens as if it had just happened to belly-flop onto a passing salad. And the fish couldn’t be better, crisp-skinned and steaming with a pleasing feral muddiness that five generations of scientific aquaculture have completely eliminated from the American catfish. 2643 N. San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead, (626) 307-8868. Daily 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $15.95–$35. AE, D, MC, V. Vietnamese. JG $ ¨

Pho 79. The perfect breakfast is hard to find. Soul food is too fattening, diner food too bland, Japanese pickles just too weird before noon. If you like noodles, you might think Pho 79 serves the perfect breakfast, light, tasty and just exotic enough, inexpensive and filled with vitamins: beef soup. The strong, dark-roasted coffee, dripped at table in individual stainless-steel French filters, is among the best I’ve had anywhere. And in an area — Chinatown — thick with Vietnamese noodle shops, Pho 79 serves the best noodles. 727 N. Broadway, Suite 120, Chinatown, (213) 625-7026. Lunch and dinner seven days 8:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m. Beer. Validated parking. Cash only. Food for two, $7–$10. Vietnamese. JG ¢

Vietnam House. Almost as a public service, Vietnam House prepares bo bay mon, the fabled Vietnamese seven-course beef dinner that was a specialty in this dining room when it was still called Pagode Saigon. The dinner is a well-worn ritual, honed in country restaurants before the war and served in an unbending succession of courses whose composition probably hasn’t changed in 30 years: sliced raw beef that you cook at the table by swishing it for a few seconds in a pot of vinegar broth boiling merrily on a brazier; steamed pâté studded with clear noodles and served with shrimp chips; gristly grilled meatballs; tightly rolled slivers of steak; charred beef tucked inside vaguely narcotic la lot leaves; marinated beef salad; beef porridge. This is food that was made for beer. 710 W. Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel, (626) 282-6327. Lunch and dinner Mon., Wed., Thurs. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sun. till 10 p.m. Beer only. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $14–$24. Vietnamese. JG ¢

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miles
Vietnam House

710 W. Las Tunas Drive
San Gabriel, CA 91776

626-282-3630

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