I am always happy to find a new Vietnamese restaurant open up nearby but then a sinking feeling follows because I am usually disappointed after I visit.
This location hasn’t had much luck with the last few establishments and the turnover is so swift I can barely keep up. The current owners have kept the interior relatively similar and it is clean, airy and bright.
We start with Goi Cuon ($3.75/2 rolls), spring rolls with pork, shrimp, vermicelli and shredded lettuce. A hoisin dipping sauce accompanies and is as good as any I have had in lil Saigon.
If you don’t like meat in your spring rolls — my son doesn’t eat shrimp — order the Tofu Rolls ($3.50/2 rolls). It is the same thing but with tofu instead. Even though I’m not vegetarian, I enjoyed these fresh light rolls.
I was surprised that even Banh Mi ($3.75) is offered and we order one to try. Grilled beef is succulent and flavorful, albeit a bit salty, but the julienned carrots, sliced jalapenos and sprigs of cilantro help balance the strong flavors of the beef. I would’ve preferred Do Chua (pickled carrots and daikon) in the banh mi like they are usually served, but it was still good.
Special combination mi ($6.95/small) is a nice alternative to pho because I prefer the more textural egg noodles over the slippery pho noodles. The mi is nice and chewy, the broth piping hot and light. I like the addition of roasted chicken to the usual staple of shrimp, barbecued pork and fish cake usually served in this dish. I was very impressed and will return for this again.
My son’s favorite Vietnamese dish is Com Bo Luc Lac ($8.50) and here the diced beef is marinated in a soy marinade and seared on high heat with onions. A side salad of tomatoes and lettuce adds a refreshing contrast to the meaty entree.
Of all the Vietnamese restaurants within a 5 mile radius, I like the bo luc lac here best and it is far tastier and more affordable than the $12 offering across the street at Thanh Binh II.
We can’t leave without trying the pho seeing the restaurant’s name is Pho 89. Our Pho Tai ($5.95 small) is scorchingly hot when it arrives and the sliced rare steak is nice and pink.
Herbs and bean sprouts are fresh and vibrant and they are generous with the lime wedges too. The broth is respectable and not greasy at all and I’ll be quite happy to come here if I didn’t want to drive to lil Saigon.
23591 Rockfield Blvd
Lake Forest, CA 92630