When you think of the stretch of La Brea Ave. near the corner of Beverly Blvd., it's likely furniture and design stores come to mind. When you consider food in this part of town, you might think of the upscale restaurants nearby on Beverly, such as Angelini Osteria and BLD, or the ubiquitous chain restaurants that dot the strip malls. It's a slightly unlikely location for the second outpost of Nong La, a Vietnamese cafe that has its original location on Sawtelle amongst throngs of mostly Japanese but also Chinese and Korean eateries.
Nong La opened its airy dining room here last week for friends and family, and opened to the public officially on Tuesday of this week. The menu covers all the basics: multiple versions of pho, bun bo hue, rice dishes and bun. There's also banh mi with everything from grilled chicken to Vietnamese meatloaf and chicken liver pate.
A little less basic is the hen xic banh da me, a clam salad that mixes baby clams with slivered green mango and fistfuls of mint, topped with peanuts and crispy shallots and a black sesame cracker. A fish sauce vinaigrette gives it just a whiff of funk. It's pretty much the ideal snack for a hot day, the tart fruit and seafood and crunchy cracker and fresh mint making it both refreshing and satisfying.
The restaurant is already doing a brisk to-go business (you can call ahead to order), with workers from around the area obviously thrilled to have a decent lunch option. If you choose to eat in, the service staff in these opening days has been friendly and enthusiastic.
Nong La is open Tues.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. They are closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Nong La Vietnamese Cafe, 145 N La Brea Blvd. #B, Fairfax. 323-938-1188.
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