Just relaxing on an islet in the Caribbean

Monday, June 13, 2011


A Bit of History
In the mid 70’s, General Nguyen Cao Ky of the South Vietnamese army fled communist controlled Vietnam and relocated to Orange County, California. Along with a “boat” load of refugees, General Cao Ky moved to the city of Westminster, opened up a liquor store and assisted in making OC home to one of the largest and most prominent Vietnamese communities in the west. The Vietnamese boat people colonized certain areas of Westminster and Garden Grove designating their little slice of the American dream the “Little Saigon” area of Orange County.

New Food Culture Comes to the OC
The Little Saigon area is home to hundreds of Vietnamese restaurants specializing in various foods from “pho” (beef noodle soup), Banh mi (baguette & pate sandwiches) to “Ca phe da” (iced coffee) houses. With culinary influences from France, China, Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia, Vietnamese food remains very healthy, low in carbohydrates and fat, and light – all good reasons why Vietnamese food is one of my favorite foods in the world!

Brodard Chateau & Vietnamese Cuisine
In existence since 2006, Brodard Chateau, a two story restaurant owned and operated by the Dang family (Bamboo Bistro in Corona del Mar and Brodard in Westminster), offers traditional and Asian fusion cuisine from the Saigon, Hanoi and Hue regions of Vietnam. The restaurant has a well stocked bar, indoor staircase and a stylish Vietnamese setting with art deco ambiance.
I begin my repast with one of several Brodard Chateau specialty cocktails. David Xaygnavong, my gracious waiter and bartender mixed my favorite - the Lychee vodka martini. Shaken with lychee liquor, white cranberry juice, vodka and fresh lychee fruit this libation is light, sweet and crisp. Although I could have easily guzzled another, I decided one was my limit (after all, I was scheduled to host an evening soiree of ten and I thought it a grand idea to remain coherent and charming for my guests)!

My dining trips to Little Saigon eateries would not be the same without an order of Cuon Chay - freshly made Vietnamese spring rolls. Moist and chewy rice paper is filled with tender steamed shrimp, sliced avocado, bean sprouts, mint leaf, lettuce & thin strands of vermicelli. Delectable bobbins are tightly wrapped into neat rolls, sliced in half and served cold with a creamy peanut dipping sauce. I know how fresh the rolls were as I observed the kitchen staff carefully hand rolling and slicing my made to order rolls.

A common dish at many Asian fusion restaurants is the “salt and pepper” style seafood. Muc Rang Muoi are lightly breaded rings or strips of squid (similar to calamari Italian style) flash fried in a very hot wok together with sea salt, scallion slivers and fresh jalapenos. I squeezed a wedge of fresh lime on top of the calamari rings, popped a couple in my mouth and relished every morsel. The flavors of tangy lime juice, spicy fresh pepper slices and onion made a great pre-dinner appetizer!

My first course was set before me with sizzling sounds emanating through my ears alerting my brain. The precariously hot cast iron skillet full of blazing chunks of delicate sole filet and the essence of turmeric spice sautéed with caramelized onion slivers, fresh baby dill and garlic chips had me salivating. The aromas are slightly intoxicating (guys, it doesn’t take much to intoxicate me when food is involved). David delivered my plethora of accoutrements: a platter laced with fresh mint leafs, thinly sliced red onions, roasted peanuts, vermicelli noodles, slivers of fresh lemon grass stock and lemons wedges. Methodically, I make a “Vietnamese taco” with the seafood and accompanying goodies and drizzle a side of savory shrimp based dipping sauce over my taco. After one bite instantly I am in food heaven and speechless.

Pan seared Vietnamese rice flour crepes over-flow with bits of pork, chunks of shrimp, crisp bean sprouts, mushrooms and onions. Served with a bunch of crunchy Asian veggies (including lettuce and basil) and chili-lime fish sauce, these ingredients allow a diner to make a Vietnamese “lettuce wrap” according to their dietary desires.

Taro root, a starchy tuber vegetable, is often used in soups and desserts and is a very popular culinary staple in Asia. My preference is to expand my culinary horizons and step outside of the box, therefore, my food choices are diverse items not normally found on menus. Che Khoai Mon Nuoc Dua (say that fast 10x) is Brodard Chateau’s version of a sweet taro root dessert. The presentationand preparation for this confection was similar to a steamy bowl of cream of wheat (like my granny used to make). My dessert was served warm with a hefty spoonful of thin coconut sauce poured over the top. I was impressed and pleased with the simple yet creative concept for this particular dessert – it was not a typical, banal sweet course found on a menu.

I have travelled to Southeast Asia: Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and thoroughly enjoyed the various foods from those regions (excluding the “baby frogs on a stick” at the open air market in Thailand). I delight in the knowledge that there are so many Asian restaurants to choose from - not far from the 405 freeway within 40 minutes of my home in South Orange County.


Brodard Chateau on Urbanspoon

Open Daily 10:30)
Beer, wine & cocktails served

1 comment:

  1. Why didn't you eat the frogs on a stick?? Haha. Great review! I wanna eat there again.