Orange County's Little Saigon is the oldest and largest Vietnamese-American community in the United States. Situated 45 miles south of Los Angeles, it's a world away from the city, but still vibrant with an energy of its own. Together with its surrounding communities, it is home to hundreds of restaurants and cafes specializing in such Vietnamese standbys as banh mi, bun cha ha noi, and pho. So it's hard for one place to stand out. But Brodard Chateau has managed to do just that.
It's not unusual to see tables here only ordering platters of spring rolls. What is it about them that makes patrons so fanatical? The usual suspects are there — pork and shrimp — but more impressive are the duck, soft shell crab, and seared ahi tuna spring rolls. With choices this enticing, it's easy to forget there are other items on the menu as well. The bo luc lac, or French-style beef, is excellent; tender cubes of filet mignon are stir-fried with a garlic-ginger soy sauce. Banh xeo, a savory Vietnamese crepe served with dark greens and tamarind-fish sauce, is crispy on the outside yet light, with caramelized edges. And the bun cha ha noi is a stunning visual feast; it comes on a serving platter with the individual components arranged separately. Patrons assemble a melange of rice vermicelli, cucumber, lettuce, mint leaves, cilantro, pickled radish and carrots, and char-grilled pork, and top it all with a little bit of fish sauce and Sriracha.
Service and décor also stand out from many other establishments in the area. The two-story dining area won't fool anyone into thinking it's a chateau, but it is a pleasant and quiet place to spend time. Upon entering, patrons are greeted by a hostess, and servers present them with their table. When it's time to go, they'll bring the check. There's no free-for-all on tables, and customers aren't expected to come up to a cash register with their table number. It's a far cry from your typical hole-in-the-wall, especially since there's a full service bar — a rarity in Little Saigon.
Brodard Chateau is a great place to bring friends who already have some passing familiarity with Vietnamese cuisine and want to delve deeper, but don't want to feel like they're eating in a diner. It's a little bit pricier than many of its competitors, but it's hard to find a better spring roll.