Restaurant Openings

Nong Lá Café Brings Bun Bo Hue to West L.A.

Comments (0)


Thu, May 24, 2012 at 4:05 PM
click to enlarge Bun Bo Hue at Nong Lá - G. SNYDER
  • G. Snyder
  • Bun Bo Hue at Nong Lá

Nong Lá Café, the latest addition to the strip of Sawtelle Boulevard often known as Little Osaka due to its concentration of Japanese eateries, is offering something a bit different than most of its neighbors -- instead of ramen and yakitori, diners will able able to get a taste of Vietnamese specialties like pho tai, cha gio, and thit noung (grilled pork skewers).

Of course, a Vietnamese restaurant opening may not mean as much to those on in the SGV, Chinatown, or down in Westminster's Little Saigon, but for those on the Westside a place without a title involving a number or a soup-based pun (Pho Show, we're looking at you) is something of a godsend. Nong Lá owners Victor and Elaine Phuong are intent on showcasing the family recipes they grew up with in nearby Monterey Park, and based on the amount of interest the sleek and modern space has generated since it's grand opening last week, things are looking up for the brother-sister duo.

You'd be hard-pressed to find bun bo hue, a vibrant Central Vietnamese soup made with lemongrass and chili oil, anywhere remotely nearby, and it even comes stocked with generous slices of fatty brisket and rough hand-shaped pork patties. The flavors are more delicate than at some places on the Eastside -- no cubes of congealed pork blood here -- but the broth still has that complex, long-simmered essence.

click to enlarge Cha Gio at Nong Lá - G. SNYDER
  • G. Snyder
  • Cha Gio at Nong Lá

There is a solid selection of banh mi too, along with the option to top the sandwich with a fried egg (like that's even choice you have to think about). The cha gio, those crunchy little egg rolls usually stuffed into bowls of mixed-up bun noodles, are probably worth the trip alone: light and crisp and wonderfully plump. The kitchen marinates shrimp overnight and stuffs them, along with bits of ground pork, into thin rice wrappers and fries them to a pleasant crisp. Order a plateful and they'll arrive with sprigs of mint, pickled daikon and carrot, a few lettuce leaves, and a small cup of sweetish nouc mam, a mellow fish-sauce mixture used for dipping.

The house special iced tea, tra da dac biet, made with passionfruit and a dash of mint, is pretty spectacular on a hot day. Will it replace your monthly trips out to Golden Deli? Probably not, but it's comforting to have a good bowl of rice noodles on speed dial.

Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Reach the author at gsnyder@laweekly.com or follow him on Twitter at @searchanddevour

Related Location

Related Content

Now Trending

  • Deep-Fried Doritos Debut at SoCal Fairs

    Every year, Charlie Boghosian, aka Chicken Charlie, tries to outdo himself with his deep-fried concoctions sold at California fairs. The man began his arterial onslaught modestly several years ago with deep-fried Twinkies and deep-fried Snickers bars. Seeking ever greater challenges, he took on deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried cookie dough, deep-fried Spam,...
  • 5 Great Sandwiches Worth the Drive to Atwater Village

    If Tacos Villa Corona were open reasonable hours, this list probably wouldn’t exist — what point would there be in seeking out other cheap and hearty lunch options in a neighborhood already blessed with such spectacular burritos? But thanks to their abbreviated schedule, we have found ourselves on an island, stranded and...
  • Father's Office and Cole's on Esquire's Best Bars In America (Video)

    Tonight on the Esquire Network, Best Bars in America explores the country's best bar food, which naturally brings them to a couple of usual suspects right here in Los Angeles.  Best Bars in America launched earlier this summer, hosted by comedians Jay Larson and Sean Patton. Each episode sees the...


  • Ladies Gunboat Society at Flores
    At Ladies Gunboat Society, the new operation out of the restaurant that used to be Flores on Sawtelle Boulevard, the Hoppin’ John is served as an appetizer or a small plate rather than a side, and the price is the stuff of comedy.
  • Malibu Pier Restaurant and Bar
    Malibu Pier Restaurant and Bar, with chef Jason Fullilove at the helm, is in the two buildings at the pier’s entrance that used to be Beachcomber Cafe and Ruby’s Diner. Those buildings, which have been overhauled completely, reflect both the pier’s 109-year-old history and the cultural import of Malibu itself.
  • The Tasting Menu Trend
    In Los Angeles especially, but increasingly across the country, restaurants are either switching to tasting menus, putting a greater focus on a tasting-menu option (while offering à la carte items as well), or opening as tasting-menu operations from day one. The format that used to be the calling card of only the fanciest of restaurants is becoming ubiquitous, even at places where the waiter calls you “dude” and there isn’t a white tablecloth in sight.