We only ordered the oc len xau dua (coconut snails) and the spicy crawfish fried rice, but thanks to our new friends' generosity and kindness, got to try the Manila clams, porridge with 1000 year old egg, and the elephant snails, so I feel entirely justified in making the following proclamation:
Cafe Artist rocks! (And so do you, guy from next table whose name I never caught because the basketball game on TV was so loud!)
Spicy crawfish fried rice: there are a ton of little smoky curled crawfish tails in there: this is not a filler dish. The dark sweet soy sauce is not needed, but will add a kick with its tiny chilies.
Sea snails in coconut sauce: much better than C&C Express, still not as good as Saigon, requires much rude sucking and slurping to get the damn things out, worth it though. Is it considered gauche to just drink the remaining sauce from the bowl?
Manila clams: sweet and peanutty with a depth to them that makes their chewiness worth it.
1000-year-old egg chao: just as good as anywhere, with a bunch of pork in there to make it meatier.
Elephant snails: now this experience was particularly awesome because I was lounging back in my chair, holding my stomach and proclaiming my fullness to all the world, when suddenly a man from the next table is standing in front of me with a huge curl of... something... carefully arranged on two toothpicks. He's handing it to me. I start to ask him, "What is it?", quickly realize that A) he doesn't speak English and B) I don't care what it is, and just pop it in my mouth instead. It tastes almost smoked, like a conch on the grill, but has the bite of surf clam. I'm chewing it for ages, milking every last flavor it has. Finally, I swallow. "Elephant snail!" says our friend next to us. Well, OK then! I guess I love elephant snails!
And I love Cafe Artist, too.
Cafe Artist Restaurant
14281 Brookhurst St
Garden Grove, CA 92843