— Linda Burum, Miles Clements, Betty Hallock and C. Thi Nguyen
Huong Giang At this central Vietnamese restaurant in Westminster's Little Saigon, the dozens of dim sum-like dishes include fat little shrimp-filled dumplings, impossibly tender rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves, silver dollar-sized rice pancakes topped with pork cracklings and Vietnamese cold cuts swathed in freshly steamed rice noodle sheets as airy as chiffon. Not to miss is the mind-blowing jackfruit noodle salad, or mi quang, turmeric-colored rice noodles in a rich curry-like sauce under a dozen or so embellishments.
14564 Brookhurst St., Westminster, (714) 531-4930. 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily.
Ngu Binh Owner Mai Tran, having recently moved from a pint-sized space to a much larger one in the same mall, has seriously upgraded her restaurant's appeal by replacing the former funky, untranslated, Xeroxed menu with a shiny new photo-illustrated one. For Ngu Binh's many fans, the now-stylish restaurant with its black lacquer furnishings and gorgeous floral arrangements is still all about the bun bo Hue. There's more mi quang, neon-yellow rice noodles in an unctuous stewed pork sauce, with earthy roasted peanuts, scallions, puffy rice disks and a long parade of other adornments.
14072 Magnolia St., No. 107, Westminster, (714) 903-6000. 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays.
Little La Lune In Long Beach's Cambodia Town, the reborn Little La Lune in a quiet strip mall is a contemporary Cambodian cafe designed for a new generation. Slurp up the Phnom Penh noodle soup. It's a surfeit of seafood: pillowy fish balls, plump shrimp, rings of squid, dried baby shrimp, rice noodles, cilantro and fried garlic. The soup is the standard by which many Cambodia Town restaurants are measured, and Little La Lune's is very good — a polished broth that tastes faintly of the ocean, seafood that embodies its provenance. Thai flavors prevail in the crispy noodle salad: a nest of fried egg noodles, shredded cabbage and carrots, bean sprouts, cilantro, scallion, mint, crushed peanuts, slices of just-grilled beef and a lime-laced dressing.
2054 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, (562) 856-5800, http://www.littlelalune.com. Open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Lum-Ka-Naad The latest incarnation of this Northridge standby boasts a long, dark-wood noodle bar with its own separate menu. There are boat noodles and duck noodle soup, Hakka noodles and Singapore noodles. Go for a little burn with the dazzling tom yum pork noodle, afloat with crispy fried pork belly squares, lean ground pork patties, shrimp, meatballs and a sprinkling of crunchy ground peanut topping. (Also try the house-made regional sausages, green jackfruit and sassy tart green mango salad with toasted coconut.)
8910 Reseda Blvd., Northridge, (818) 882-3028, http://www.lumkanaad.com. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Bistro Orient Dan Nguyen, chef-owner of Bistro Orient in Woodland Hills, turns out an always-delicious take on French-Vietnamese cooking with occasional impromptu touches like a splash of Thai seasoning. Flavors adopted from his family background (his mother owned a French restaurant in Saigon, and his Chinese father ran an import food business) and an L.A. adolescence show up in Bistro Orient's dinner entrees. But the dish that appears on almost every table is Dan's Special Garlic Noodle — his silky rice noodle stir-fry, available with grilled prawns, scallops, sautéed crab meat or bass.
21799 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 456-4564. Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; 5 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.