When a friend asked me to meet him for drinks in Culver City at the end of January, he suggested East Borough. I had not yet heard of the restaurant and learned that it had been open for less than a week. I found the restaurant on Washington Blvd., just east of Sony Studios and next door to City Tavern, and we enjoyed a few tasty cocktails. I knew I had to return soon for the food, which I did.
East Borough is a contemporary Vietnamese restaurant with a first location in Costa Mesa. John Cao and chef Chloe Tran from Costa Mesa have partnered with Paul Hibler (Pitfire Pizza, Superba Snack Bar) and chef Jason Neroni (Superba Snack Bar) to offer Vietnamese flavors and the French-influenced side of Vietnamese cuisine. The staff is exceptionally friendly and very well versed in each dish on the menu.
Starting with the cocktails, they are all made with fresh juice and house-crafted items. The cocktails incorporate Asian flavors and spices, such as thai basil, tamarind, ginger and lemongrass. The Saigon Soda (gin, kiwi, vinegar, lime, thai basil), In Eastern Fashion (bourbon, pomelo, chocolate chili bitters), Tamarindo (reposado, tamarind, lime, sriracha salt) were refreshing subtle cocktails. But, the subtlety was enhanced when paired with the spicy flavors of the food.
The menu is enticing and we wanted to try everything but managed to make our way thru half of the menu.
Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Crepe – dungeness crab, shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, boston lettuce, nuoc mam) – A traditional dish stuffed with generous amounts of crab in a crispy crepe. ($14)
Daikon Rice Cake and Egg (shiitake mushrooms, cilantro, spicy soy) – The daikon rice cakes served with fried eggs are slightly sweet but the spicy soy sauce adds a little heat on the finish. A rich, dense dish, this one was a favorite. ($10)
Salt & Pepper Squid (fresno chili, rau ram, pickled lime aioli) – A simple dish with subtle flavors, this dish got a little lost after all the bigger flavors of the other dishes we had. Suggestion: if you order this dish, order it first. ($12)
Fried Rice (wok fried salt cod, chicken, rapini, charred scallions) – Our server recommended this dish and we were both indifferent to fried rice and concerned that it could be salty due to the salt cod. But, what a great suggestion. This was our favorite dish of the night and was full of flavor. ($13)
Lamb Ribs (tamarind glazed, crushed peanuts, sriracha, thai basil) – The meat literally fell off the bone everytime we tried to pick up a rib. The richness of the glaze was cut the heat from the siracha and the peanuts added a nice touch. ($17)
Phocatini (oxtail, hoisin, sriracha, bean sprouts thai basil) – A signature dish, the phocatini is a playful take on Vietnamese pho and Italian bucatini. The oxtail is cooked for 12-15 hours and is tender but with the hoisin sauce, it is a big, rich dish, almost too rich. I wish I hadn’t been as full as I was by the time I started on this dish. ($17)
Papaya Salad (green papaya, cucumber, rau ram, spicy nuoc nam, cashews, beef jerky) – Bright and crisp, this salad was a refreshing dish, with a kick, to end the meal. ($14)
East Borough offers two desserts and I wouldn’t miss either of them!
Pot de Creme (Vietnamese coffee custard with double whipped brown sugar cream) – The custard was just ever-so-slightly solidified and melted in the mouth. The rich Vietnamese coffee flavor was muted by the double whipped brown sugar cream and the hint of salt added a perfect finishing touch.
Fried Bananas with Salted Caramel – Wrapped in a light wonton skin, the banana is perfect fried and crispy but still firm and full of flavor. When dipped in the salted caramel, it is pure harmony!
Next time, I am heading back to try the Shakey Bo Steak Frites, the Heo (pork shank) and Vietnamese Fried Chicken and to have both desserts again!
And, don’t miss their Communal Happy Hour EVERY DAY! Not only from 3-6pm but also from 9pm-close on Sunday – Wednesday and 9:30pm – close on Thursday – Saturday. Food is available for $4-$9, wine for $7 and beers for $4-$6.
East Borough Fraiche Vietnamese
9810 Washington Blvd., Culver City