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First Look: French-Vietnamese at East Borough

By Lesley Balla
March 11, 2014
Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

The Gist: Paul Hibler and his American Gonzo Food Cooperation (Pitfire Artisan Pizza, Super Snack Bar) turned to Southeast Asia with this funky new casual spot in downtown Culver City. Chef Jason Neroni collaborates with Chloe Tran, who opened the original East Borough in Costa Mesa with partner John Cao. This is a more formal set up with a larger menu of new twists on traditional Vietnamese dishes, plus a bigger space and bar, serving very sippable cocktails.

The Food: Tran and Cao started serving banh mi in Orange County, but with the help of Neroni, the menu has taken a turn to more inspired cooking. Think: Franco-Vietnamese comfort food, jazzed up with California sensibilities. You'll find things like tofu-lined spring rolls; imperial rolls with big crisp lettuce leaves and fish sauce for dipping; pho turned into sandwiches at lunch or bucatini bowls at dinner; sticky pork shanks with housemade pickles; and more. Definitely order for the table and share. There will be sticky fingers all around.

The Drinks: Any of the spritzy cocktails go down so easy, especially alongside some of the more deeply flavored dishes but there are also some classics with a Southeast Asian twist, like a Blood and Quicksand, which riffs off the Blood and Sand with scotch, cherry and the addition of pineapple. Even the nonalcoholic drinks are fun, including the ginger limeade and pineapple-basil soda.

The Space: Filled with beautiful tiled floors, formica tables, a small bar and sidewalk seating, this is a bustling little spot for lunch or dinner. The pops of bright yellow - right down to the gate along the patio - add a sunny vibe even at night, and fuchsia and blue accents give the space extra energy. A giant photo on the wall harkens to the streets of Saigon filled with hustling scooter traffic. The streets of Culver City might not be as dynamic - but it fits. Check out more highlights and some food porn in the below slide show.

The Details: East Borough, 9810 W. Washington Blvd.; 310-596-8266

  • Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

    Fun, bright and inviting, the casual dining room and patio are great for lunch and dinner drop-ins. Angle for a booth instead of a communal table if you can.

  • Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

    Banh mi are only available at lunch, but they're big enough that you may take home half for dinner. This is the pho sandwich - beef brisket with basil, onions and hoisin sriracha aïoli.

  • Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

    Perfect cubes of pork belly over rice with chile paste and an egg. Mix it all together and voilá.

  • Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

    Banh xeo, a tumeric crêpe stuffed with sprouts and crab meat, is a great starter.

  • Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

    The head-on shrimp in crab paste are so good you'll eat the heads. Trust.

  • Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

    The imperial rolls are super crispy and delicious. Take a roll, wrap in lettuce, add mint and Thai basil, dip, bite and repeat.

  • Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

    A whole crispy roasted trout with grilled pineapple, anchovy vinaigrette and bloomsdale spinach is a great seafood alternative to things like the oxtail phocatini, Neroni's handmade bucatini with heavy pho spices.

  • Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

    If the communal tables and booths are filled, hang out at the bar for cocktails. There's now even a daily happy hour.

  • Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

    The Golden Axe, a spirit-forward rye cocktail with mint, ginger and lemon.

  • Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

    Fresh fruit and housemade syrups give the nonalcoholic drinks a nice zip.

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Places Mentioned

East Borough

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