Blue Hen. Blue Hen is an unusually pleasant place to linger, listening to old soul tunes and jacking yourself up on glasses of super-strong Vietnamese filtered coffee with condensed milk. There are fresh spring rolls to snack on and -turmeric-garlic fries that turn your -fingers yellow as a chain smoker’s. Big bowls of -chicken -porridge seem custom-designed to soothe -mornings -after, and delicious Vietnamese sandwiches of -glazed chicken and herbs are a sweet, spicy variant on the banh mi you can get on any corner in Westminster. -1743 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, (323) 982-9900, www.eatatbluehen.com. Wed.–Mon., 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. MC, V. No alcohol. Lot parking. Dinner for two, $15–$20, food only. JG ¢
Hoan Kiem. Hoan Kiem is pretty much a one-dish restaurant. If you are looking for something that doesn’t happen to be pho ga, you’re probably in the wrong place. The massive bowl of soup, yellow and chickeny, is seasoned with nothing more elaborate than a sprig or two of cilantro and a handful of chopped scallions, with soft rice noodles cooked about a hundred steps past al dente into near-gelatinousness. It is soup that makes the meager offerings of delis like Junior’s or Nate ’n’ Al’s seem like so many bouillon cubes dissolved in tepid tap water. 727 N. Broadway, Chinatown, (213) 617-3650. Open for lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. No alcohol. Validated lot parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $10. 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 — teams of sandwich makers slice hot baguettes in half and neatly layer meat and condiments. 1289 Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (626) 282-5589. Seven days, 5 p.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot Parking. Sandwiches, $1.75–$3.75. 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. 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 ¢
Pho Café. Though the pho is better at other well-known Vietnamese restaurants, Pho Café is far more stylish, and the food is fresh enough, the ingredients good quality. The menu is pared down and easily mastered. Try the banh xeo appetizer, a crunchy, chewy crepe with shrimp, beef, mushrooms and bean sprouts in a turmeric-yellow flour batter and wrapped with lettuce and herbs in just-moistened rice paper. 2841 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 413-0888. Lunch and dinner seven days, 11 a.m.–midnight. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. Entrées $5.95–$6.75. Cash only. Vietnamese. MH $
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 offers the perfect breakfast, light, tasty and just exotic enough, inexpensive and filled with vitamins: beef soup. And in an area 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 ¢
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, it is a sweet-smelling thing. 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 $
Vietnam House. Almost as a public service, Vietnam House prepares bo bay mon, the fabled Vietnamese seven-course beef dinner. It’s 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. 710 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel, (626) 282-6327. Lunch and dinner Mon., Wed.–Thurs. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sun. till 9:30 p.m. Beer only. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $14–$24. Vietnamese. JG ¢
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