Monthly Archives: April 2016

Little Serow, Washington, DC

Little Serow
1511 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036

Over the past few years DC has exploded with a number of high quality Southeast Asian restaurants. I’ve documented the surge of Filipino food in DC before, but the growth of Southeast Asian food has also extended to other cuisines like Lao at Thip Khao and Thai at Little Serow. I wanted to try both during my brief time in town two weeks ago but only had time for one, so I chose Little Serow.

Little Serow can be hard to miss, with a relatively nondescript location on 17th Avenue NW. I definitely walked passed it on my way there during my trip. However, its inconspicuousness does not deter it from having its tables constantly filled every night. It’s a testament to the renown of the cooking quality here, years after its grand opening.

The restaurant has a constantly changing prix fixe menu that’s currently priced at $49. The week I was there, this was the following menu:

Nam prik makeua at Little Serow

Nam prik makeua at Little Serow

  • Nam prik makeua – This is Little Serow’s version of nam prik (a thick spicy sauce) with eggplant. Normally I’m not an eggplant fan, but grounded up with salted fish and chiles, this was the perfect starter for the night.
  • Khanom jin naam yaa – The next dish included perfectly cooked noodles mixed with a catfish curry sauce. Given my preference for less sauce, I would say that there was a little too much sauce for me. However, the flavors were pretty good and it was probably one of my favorite dishes tonight given my love of catfish.
  • Ma hor – The jackfruit in this dish matched pretty well with the spiciness of the chiles and the richness of the pork and shrimp. I think I ate this entire dish in less than a minute, if that is any indication of its deliciousness.
Little Serow 2

Laap chiang mai at Little Serow

  • Laap chiang mai – This dish comes with small wedges of cabbage, which I unfortunately swallowed and choked on in the middle of the meal. That aside, I thought this minced sausage was enjoyable, especially with the lettuce and radishes they give you throughout the meal.
  • Tow hu thouk – I loved these fried tofu pieces. The ginger paired well with the chiles while the ground peanuts gave a nice crunch to the dish.
  • Het grapao – After eating spicy dish after spicy dish, the over easy egg and mushroom were definitely a great way to start cooling down my taste buds.
Little Serow 3

Si krong muu at Little Serow

  • Si krong muu – Ending out the night were these well marinated and succulent rib pieces. The meat fell right off the bone and it was definitely a highlight to end the savory portion of the meal.

As a person with little experience eating northern Thai cuisine I can’t really speak to any quality comparisons with other restaurants. However, it was a very tasty introduction to northern Thai cuisine, tasting small bites of dishes that I might otherwise need to eat multiple times at a more traditional entree sized restaurant. In fact, I would say that the introduction to new flavors is why this meal was my favorite of the trip, even beating out my excellent meal at highly regarded Rose’s Luxury.

Pho Nguyen Hue, Westminster

Pho Nguyen Hue
10487 Bolsa Ave
Westminster, CA 92684

Despite Orange County’s reputation as a place filled with wealthy white people, it is one of the most diverse counties in the country. Example 1 of many which attest to this fact is that Orange County is home to the largest Vietnamese community in America, if not outside Vietnam, with an estimated 211,862 people of Vietnamese descent living there, mostly concentrated in Westminster and Garden Grove.

So it goes without saying that one of my favorite things about attending UC Irvine was its ease of access to an unparalleled quantity of quality Vietnamese food. Within a 15 minute drive from campus you could reach endless Vietnamese dominate strip malls along Brookhurst, Magnolia, Bolsa, or the many smaller streets off of them.

One of my favorite restaurants in Little Saigon during my time in college was Pho Nguyen Hue, which was introduced to me by a Vietnamese friend of a friend that was raised down the road in Fountain Valley. While they have some very delicious phở bò (beef pho), they are arguably more well known for their phở ga (chicken pho). In fact, a few years ago the OC Weekly pronounced their phở ga was even better than renown phở ga restaurant Pho Dakao down the street.

Thus, when I went to Orange County last week and had a craving for pho ga for lunch, it was clear that I had to go to Pho Nguyen Hue and see if their phở ga today can match the phở ga I ate in years past. The results are below:

Pho Ga at Pho Nguyen Hue

Pho Ga at Pho Nguyen Hue

  • Phở ga (with skin and dark meat, without liver or gizzard) – While the broth was a little saltier than usual, the overall chicken flavor was excellent with just enough chicken fat content for flavor without being overpowering. The chicken pieces were quite tender and juicy, as usual, which paired well with the gingery sweet fish sauce that came with it. The noodles were cooked to perfection. All of this for just $6.50!
Pho Nguyen Hue 2

Egg Rolls at Pho Nguyen Hue

  • Chả giò (egg rolls) – I was hungry so I decided to order some egg rolls too. Unlike other places, the egg roll skins on these are not as crisp and flaky. The filling was pretty meaty with tons of ground pork, shredded carrots, and tapioca glass noodles. While I wish there were a little more accouterments, the lettuce and mint worked perfectly well.

All in all, it was great to have a “taste of home” of sorts at Pho Nguyen Hue. It’s a place I will continue to have many fond memories, even if the service is bare bones and it is still cash only. There are days that I still miss living in Orange County, even if it is to eat a simple bowl of phở in Little Saigon.