Restaurant of the Week: Nguyen’s Kitchen

Nguyen’s Kitchen, 4021 Grand Ave. (at Pipeline), Chino; open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Nguyen’s is a recent addition to the Chino Spectrum shopping center, over in the food section at Grand and Pipeline, where there’s a Starbucks and a half-dozen casual restaurants clustered around a fountain and outdoor seating. It took the place of the area’s only Jollibee.

With a hankering for Vietnamese food, I drove down for lunch on a recent Sunday. It’s inviting inside with a lot of wood and deep booths, some that seat two and others that might seat eight, plus tastefully framed and matted Vietnam photos. The menu is simple, with a few sandwiches, noodle dishes and rice bowls, hardly a dozen items all told.

I ordered the grilled pork sandwich ($7), cajun fries ($4) and a peach lychee tea ($3.50) and took a seat. The fries came out first and merited their own tray. They were delicious, with chunks of roasted garlic, and plentiful. They’d have made a meal on their own or have been good for sharing. My sandwich was ready as I was polishing off the fries, and at that point I almost didn’t need the sandwich anymore. But I ate it anyway, of course.

It was a banh mi, for those who know their Vietnamese food, but not named as such: grilled pork on a roll with carrots, daikon, cucumber and cilantro, and likewise delicious. And the tea tasted strongly of peach.

I’d return here as the noodle and rice dishes — including garlic noodles or rice with chicken, pork, bulgogi or shrimp — also sounded appealing. The hip-hop radio station was turned up a bit loud, though. Nguyen’s has locations in Costa Mesa and Orange. Surprisingly, Nguyen’s is the second Vietnamese restaurant in that corner of the Spectrum. Pho Grand is just across the patio.

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Restaurant of the Week: Saigon Noodle House

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Saigon Noodle House, 1136 S. Diamond Bar Blvd. (at Grand), Diamond Bar

This is my first Diamond Bar Restaurant of the Week. I found this Vietnamese spot on Yelp, where it has strong ratings and lots of ’em. Two friends and I ventured down for dinner on Oscar night. It’s not far from the 57.

The place was full at 7:30, with a short wait, showing its popularity. We shared an order of spring rolls. One had salmon fried rice (bottom), the other had vegetarian pho and I had beef pho (below). Sorry, the menu isn’t online and I didn’t note any of the prices, but our total was about $25, pretty cheap for dinner for three.

My friends liked the salmon fried rice, which as you can see had a hunk of salmon on it, and they thought the rice was way better than average. And we liked our pho, which is a noodle soup, if you’re unfamiliar. “It has a lot of MSG in it, which is why it’s so good,” one said.

Service was hurried but unexpectedly friendly. When I ordered the regular pho rather than large, he asked about that, and at first I thought he hadn’t heard me. But no, he was joking about why I was ordering the smaller size. Heh. It was a good choice, being just the right amount for how hungry I was, but I appreciated the playfulness.

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Restaurant of the Week: Pho N Mor

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Pho N Mor, 3233 Grand Ave. (at Peyton), Chino Hills

The Albertsons center in Chino Hills reflects the city’s growing Asian population: There are Japanese, Chinese and Korean restaurants and a foot massage business, and now there’s Pho N Mor, which has Vietnamese food and opened in late 2011. I haven’t done a comprehensive survey, but there may be only one other Vietnamese restaurant in Chino Hills.

I had lunch at Pho N Mor recently with a friend. It’s decorated in modern style, making the most of a small space, and surrounded by windows on two sides, letting in plenty of natural light. Service was friendly and many tables were occupied.

It was a hot day and I wasn’t in the mood for a bowl of pho, the popular Vietnamese soup, so I opted for broken rice with barbecued pork ($6.75, pictured), plus a mango smoothie ($3.25). My friend opted for pad Thai with chicken ($8).

I liked my dish, but they used regular rice, not the variety known as broken rice. The mango smoothie was a mango freeze, made with crushed ice, not milk. The pad Thai looked good, but of course, that’s Thai, not Vietnamese.

So, a mixed verdict: As a sort of entry-level Vietnamese experience, this was fine, but aficionados would probably want to head to Diamond Bar, Chino or Pomona.

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