Yes, yes, I can, and thank you for asking. I've had so much experience with places just leaving 'offensive' or 'weird' ingredients out of my bowl, or else hedging when I try to order strange things and urging me to order something else. I get the good intentions behind this kind of behavior, so my intention is not to hate... but it was really refreshing to just be asked.
It is the day before Christmas Eve and the angled big-screen TV in the corner is playing football as the speakers float choral holiday music and the koi pond gurgles with aeration and children's laughter in the corner.
For my part, I'm eating a sizable bowl of bún riêu ốc, a rice noodle soup with crab, tofu, tomatoes, blood cubes, and snails, and not paying attention to much of anything I wrote in the previous paragraph. This soup is so wonderful, it beats out every bowl of bún riêu I've ever had before anywhere, and that includes Hanoi.
It doesn't pound you over the head with flavor (though if you want it to, they provide plenty of jalapeño slices and various hot pepper sauces), it just sits innocently, tomato-laden and alive with the sea.
In the (what feels like) 80 subsequent visits, I make my way down the menu like it's a homework assignment. Hến xào . Bánh ít ram. Cơm hến. Bánh bèo.
I go to Quán Vỹ Dạ so many times that the waiter asks me if I'm sure I'm not Vietnamese. Actually he asks me that because I insist not only on ordering com hen but on ordering it with the 'special' purple stinky sauce. No, I don't care that it's 'weird', I want it!
(The answer to his question, by the way, is no, I am not sure I'm not Vietnamese.)
And the results are:
Bún riêu ốc: A+, as mentioned.
Hến xào: A+, seriously this is more clams on one plate than I've ever seen in my life. The giant styrofoam-like rice cracker is no match for them. I end up giving more than half to a man asking for money outside. I ask him if he likes clams. He gives me a very suspicious look, rolls his eyes, and takes the bag. He has no idea what kind of taste sensation he's in for!
Bánh ít ram: I usually hate this dish (it's gluey and makes your mouth stick to itself like cling wrap) and, actually, I ordered it by mistake, but they managed to make it so savory and good that I actually finished it instead of switching it up, so: A+.
Cơm hến: A+, incidentally, this is the first time I think I've really 'gotten' that purple sauce as more than a novelty of fumes. It made the flavor of the clams really pop.
Bánh bèo: A+, I think it even edges out Ngu Binh since its fish sauce is less sweet. They're even making me cheat on Ngu Binh now? This is getting serious.
The only thing I have been able to discover that they're not geniuses at making is the mì quảng, which tastes a little metallic. Oh well, I guess everyone has a weakness.
Quán Vỹ Dạ
9950 Bolsa Ave
Westminster, CA 92683