Burum Bites Banh Khoai in O.C.; Gold Salutes Sotto

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Duh, nguyen-ing!! Photo: Pmquan via Flickr

Linda Burum took a trip to Garden Grove, appraising upscale central Vietnamese restaurants from here to El Monte. She eschews banh mi and pho for bun bo Hue and rare banh khoai. Though you're only getting hit for six-dollars here, the writer reminds us, "...in the early 19th century, when Vietnam's last dynasty ruled in decadence from Hue, it would have been strictly reserved for an extravagant aristocracy. The emperors demanded 50-course meals that couldn't be repeated within the year. At some point, the cooks' creativity trickled down to the hoi polloi, turning Hue into the food mecca we know now." This passage of time turns out to be Orange County's great fortune. Well, that and killer tacos. [LAT]

Jonathan Gold gets the spongy, 15,000-pound elephant in Sotto's living room "out of the way" at once in his review of the restaurant, "Sotto is not really a pizzeria," though he still generously calls the pies "decent" (we still say "disappointing") and says Sotto provided one of the best calzones he's tasted.Gold reveals that Julian Cox puts Sex Wax in a rum drink, before dishing, "Sotto is a different kind of Italian restaurant, a shrine to the awesome heat of its oven...Samson and Pollack may be pizzaioli in public, but they really seem to be abattoir jocks instead." Recalling the oven-kissed Southern Italian dishes he enjoyed, like the tremendous pork shank and braised octopi tentacles, he pinpoints just what makes this original restaurant so appealing and distinct. [LAW]

Looking for a better risotto? Make it yourself, Mr. Gold urges. Still, you'll find some pretty mean versions at Madeo, Vincenti, Drago Centro, and especially at Il Pastaio, he writes. [LAW]

Writing about the dim sum options at Rosemead's Sea Harbor, Jonathan Gold asserts, "as the level of most other local dim sum restaurants has stayed mostly the same in the last several years, Sea Harbour seems driven by a different sort of competition, perhaps from restaurants in Hong Kong and Shenzen, because there always seems to be something we've never seen before." Shiso-fried duck kidneys for breakfast, anyone? [LAW]