Paddy Rice’s Decent Vietnamese is Better Than No Vietnamese
Good, cheap, Asian food is always a tough proposition for those of us who don’t work in the San Gabriel Valley. And that’s definitely true of Vietnamese food. If you work near Koreatown, you can make due. And there are a few options in Westwood and Beverly Hills. But Hollywood? Nada. Zilch. Nothing. So when Squid Ink reported that Paddy Rice had opened along Melrose, Vietnamese food fans in the area had good reason to get excited. Sure, there were some big time red flags (the most notable one being the fact that the restaurant was opened by a Korean architect and interior designer) but whatever. Everything on the menu is under $10, and if you work in the area you’re not going to care that better Vietnamese food can be had 30 minutes to the East.
While most Vietnamese food fans gravitate towards the pho, I’m a bun kind of guy. For one thing, it’s about as healthy as I get during lunch. (And the closest thing to a salad you’ll probably ever see me eat.) I love the simplicity of the dish (rice vermicelli noodles and protein topped with Nước_chấm- a sweetened fish sauce mixture) and the variety you get. In fact, variety is the big key to this dish- and I was super excited to discover that Paddy Rice served a bun with shrimp, beef *and* fried spring rolls… or as I like to call it the holy grail of bun. Many places will give you two proteins, or one protein plus fried spring rolls, but I require 2 proteins *and* fried spring rolls or to me the place is a loss cause. Sure, I’d rather have pork over beef… but beggars can’t be choosers. Paddy Rice handled their first hurdle with ease.
Sadly it was mostly disappointment from there. The bun didn’t taste bad, it just wasn’t really my idea of bun. The shrimp were these small boiled little things with little flavor (grilling them to a crisp while they are still in the shell is the way to go) and much of the dish gave away that the owners were Korean- like the bulgogi tasting beef, and the inclusion of string beans and squash. (They also give you free chilled barley tea, a typical Korean drink.) But the worst part for me was their fancy version of nước_chấm… which tasted far more like salad dressing, than delicious fish sauce. Don’t get me wrong… the spring rolls are clearly homemade, I love bulgogi, and this was a very tasty (and fairly healthy) lunch option. I liked the way it tasted, and I’m sure there are a lot of people who will love it. It just wasn’t a traditional bun, and if that’s what you’re looking for you’ll be disappointed.
The pho, on the other hand, was kind of great- which is surprising, because bun tends to be far easier than pho. There are 4 options to chose from, including chicken and vegetarian (natch), steak, and the Ulti”meat” pho (which is obviously the one I selected) and it comes with the regular accoutrement (lime wedges, bean sprouts, and herbs). I was kind of disappointed there was no tripe or tendon, but whatever… it’s Melrose. What the hell do you expect? The rare beef slices weren’t as rare as they could have been (clearly they weren’t put into the soup raw to order), and I was incredibly disappointed there was no tripe or tendon or fish balls, but whatever… it’s Melrose. What the hell do you expect. The meatballs were tasty, and clearly made from quality meat, and the broth wasn’t watery at all, which is the biggest problem you’ll find with these kind of places. Pho enthusiasts will find problems, no doubt, but to me it was a really tasty bowl of soup.
There’s a lot to hate about Paddy Rice. The hipster decor. The flat screen TVs that line the wall. The random inclusion of Korean ingredients. But in the end, the price is right (everything is between $7 and $8) the ingredients are quality, and if you work in the area it’s a good new addition to the hood… provided you don’t think of it as real Vietnamese food.
- I work on Melrose and there is NO Vietnamese food around here!
- I don’t care about “authenticity”. I work in the area, and just want a good bowl of soup.
- I much prefer chicken and quality beef to the mystery meat you get at “real” Vietnamese places
- Tripe, tendon and fish balls? No thank you!
- You can get bun with shrimp, beef and spring rolls for $7.75! I like it.
- If you can’t get fish balls, tendon and/or tripe, it’s not real pho
- The thinly sliced rare beef wasn’t rare enough
- The beef in the bun tasted like bulgogi
- String beans and squash have no business being in bun
- Just another yuppified version of ethnic people for Angelenos who don’t know any better!
Paddy Rice, 6909 Melrose Ave (btw. La Brea + Highland), 323-634-7423