2643 San Gabriel Blvd
Rosemead, CA 91770-3253
Call

Phong Dinh Restaurant

Neighborhoods: Garvey
Cuisine: Vietnamese, Wild Game, Chinese

Phong Dinh Restaurant is a Vietnamese, Wild Game, and Chinese restaurant where most Menuism users came for fun with friends, paid between $10 and $25, and tipped more than 18%.

Offer Available!
  • 9/16/2014

    A diner from San Jose, CA tried it and liked it. They liked the food, liked the service, and liked the ambiance.

  • 8/27/2014

    A Vietnamese food lover from San Jose, CA tried it and liked it. They liked the food, liked the service, and liked the ambiance.

  • 9/09/2013

    A Vietnamese food lover from Hermosa Beach, CA tried it and liked it.

  • 7/27/2013

    A dining patron from West Covina, CA tried it.

Gayot
Rating:
12 / 20
Price:
$$$$$
Read Gayot Review »
tastyworld photo

tastyworld

 Los Angeles, CA
 

Phong Dinh Dining will Educate You

I will go back to Phong Dinh for the delicious long-baked cat fish wrap with basil, pickled carrots and radishes, and drizzled with the special sauce. I enjoyed the wrap making process though dunking the stiff rice paper in hot water was a little tricky. I would give this dish 4+ stars. I would also go back for the funny/quirky friendly service we received from the waiter and the owner.

I was very excited to be invited to try a variety of dishes that comprised of alligator, venison, boar, snake, kangaroo, plus other more familiar dishes. I haven’t had many of the more exotic meats before so I can’t compare the taste to other places but I enjoyed every new dish for its newness no matter if I liked the dish or not.

It was also surprising that many of the dishes tasted more Chinese than Vietnamese in some of its sauces. But all in all it was a meal that I really enjoyed for its variety and for the chance to try dishes that I normally wouldn’t eat.

In no particular order:
The ground snake looked like dolmas when it came out stuffed in black Lot leaves. The taste was unusual and hard to describe. It had a harsh gamey and oily but dry flavor that lay beneath the smokey taste of the leaf wrap that was not very appetizing for me.

People said the alligator with lemon grass, wood ears and water chestnut served with whole sesame rice cracker tasted like frog’s legs and they were tender and rather tasty.

The boar had a strong taste like lamb or other stronger meats in a yellow Thai style curry sauce. Not bad.

The kangaroo came to the table in a fiery blaze that made it very very festive. The taste however wasn’t very appealing to me which could be due to my unfamiliarity with this meat or to the rather sour wine marinade. But it had the nice look and texture of beef.

The slightly spicy venison was delicious and not gamey at all. It was one of my favorite dishes of the whole meal.

The manila clams were of course delicious in what tasted like lobster sauce.

The water spinach and bok choy were cooked to perfection and just right for the meat heavy meal.

The shrimp and pig ear salad would have been better for me without the pig’s ear. But otherwise very good with carrots, peanuts, bean sprouts, cabbage, and jelly fish.

The Agar agar hard gelatine dessert with coconut milk and pandan leaf was very refreshing after the heavy dishes.

flavortrail photo

flavortrail

 Los Angeles, CA
 

Baked Catfish Stole the Show

We went with a large group and a huge appetite. Although they are best known for Baked Catfish, we celebrated our foodie banquet with a large variety of dishes. Snake, Alligator, Kangaroo. None of them blew me away as much as the Catfish, Manilla Clams, and Garlic Bok Choy. I would recommend this restaurant for the adventurous diner who really wants to know they have tried EVEYTHING! But honestly I will return in a snap just to experience this fabulous catfish again. It’s perfectly seasoned, crispy on the outside and moist in the middle. Served with rice paper wrappers, so you bundle it up, Vietnamese-style with some sprouts, thai basil and cilantro, then you dip it in a sweet, clear, flavorful ginger sauce. Even writing about this makes me want to go back! The waiter was so skillful in deboning the fish right in front of us, displaying the spine, all in one piece. I give this restaurnant 4 stars for the catfish. All the rest is icing on the cake.

RJHemedes photo

RJHemedes

 Los Angeles, CA
 

Noah's Ark on a Platter

On the Eve of the Lunar New Year, I was invited to a free hosted event at Phong Dinh, a Vietnamese restaurant known for its exotic meat dishes. So when the opportunity came up to to try out a 12 course meal at the place free of charge, I jumped at the opportunity.

The 1st dish they served us was the Vietnamese fresh spring rolls. Its very similar to Filipino fresh lumpia. But here you have to assemble it yourself. They give you a plate of mixed herbs. Another plate with diced carrots, slices of cucumber, bean sprouts. Then a bowl of a sweet sauce that might have tamarind and fish sauce in it. Last but not least you get a bowl of warm water and a stack of rice paper shaped like tortillas.

It requires a dexterity test where you spin the rice paper quickly around the water to moisten it. Then use it to wrap around the veggies and sauce. Personally, I found having to dip the rice paper into the water to be a bit of a chore. I am so not into the self wrap thing. Overall, the fresh spring roll to me tasted like fresh lumpia – which I’m not really fond of. I prefer the fried version better. There was a lot of leftover rice paper when everything was said and done.

The 2nd dish that arrived was Quail Eggs Wrapped in Shrimp Paste and Battered with Sweet Rice Flake. Now this dish, I liked, and so did the rest of the people in my group. The shrimp paste was not at all strong like bagoong. It was more like a small egg covered in crab cake batter. The texture of the egg along with the batter complimented each other perfectly. This dish was completely eaten.

The 3rd dish to arrive was the house specialty baked catfish. This one requires an advance order because it takes at least 30 minutes to bake the fish. You can order it it 3 sizes – small, medium and large. I believe we were served one medium sized catfish and and one slightly smaller ones. When I say medium – this fish was at least 10 lbs. Catfish can get very large. You could definitely taste the earthy taste of catfish which is off putting to some people, but I grew up eating catfish. The best part of the catfish dish was the bottom half that soaked up the sauce it was served on. The top half was moist, but rather bland in taste. The group finished off both catfish.

The 4th dish was Shrimp & Pork with Lotus Root Sour Salad. This one I took a bite and nearly spit out. It has cilantro and some other foul herb that didn’t agree with most of the people at my table. It also had jellyfish. Maybe only 2 or 3 people in my group (out of 12) liked the dish. Needless to say the dish was not finished off.

The 5th dish was Charbroiled Ground Snake in Rolled “Lot Leaves”. Visually, it reminded me of sushi, but most sushi I can tolerate – this one was just gross. Again, there was some type of herb or seasoning that most of the people in my group didn’t like.

The 6th dish was Manila Clams with Bell Pepper, Garlic and Chili. How can you go wrong with manila clams? The group liked this dish – it was almost like eating clams in lobster sauce.

The 7th dish was Sauteed Boar in Curry Sauce. It was accompanied by Whole black Sesame Rice Crackers. I guess the meat and sauce were meant to be eaten with the crackers. The crackers looked gorgeous, but their taste was very bland. It really needed the sauce to give it flavor. The wild boar had a very gamy taste to it – almost like lamb or goat. The curry was mild, very similar to Thai curry.

The 8th dish was Diced Venison Sauteed with Onions. Do you know what kung pao beef tastes like? Okay, now imagine it with venison and that’s basically what it is – kung pao venison. We liked it, but didn’t find the preparation to be exotic. The venison was moist and tender.

Before they served us the 9th dish, they gave us a break and cleansed our palates with two veggie dishes – water spinach and bok choy with garlic. The bok choy was good, but not distinctive. But the water spinach, also known as kang kong – it was served perfectly. Not overcooked and seasoned just right – which is a rarity at most Chinese restaurants that serve water spinach.

I had to visit the restroom and missed the fiery presentation of the 10th dish, Kangaroo Sauteed with Wine Flame. Basically, they put wine on the kangaroo dish on a hot plate that results in a fiery volcano spectacle. I still got back in time to see the dish sizzling.

The 11th dish was Alligator with Lemon Grass. Ever had frog legs or event rabbit? Alligator reminded me of those meats. The flavor of the dish was okay but the meat didn’t do anything for me.

The 12th dish was Chicken with Lemon Grass and Chili. The chicken was better than the alligator.

Overall, the best I liked best were the meats that were most familiar with. I would recommend that if you do give this place a try, call in advance to order the baked catfish in advance. They have a small private lot for parking. Otherwise, its street parking.

Kangaroo Sautéed with Wine Flame

A good crowd pleasing preparation, Benihana style. The roo meat itself is slightly on the dry side, but served kung pao style.

Water Spinach (Kangkong or Kangkung)

This is the best kang kong dish I have even in any restaurant. Ever. Its not overcooked or greasy.

Manila Clams at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Manila Clams

The clams are served in a lobster sauce. If you like clams and you like lobster sauce, you’ll like this dish.

Quail Eggs Wrapped in Shrimp Paste at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Quail Eggs Wrapped in Shrimp Paste

Delicious! I wish they offered us two plates of this dish, instead of 1. The shrimp paste is not strong at all. Its more like crab cake batter on eggs.

Sautéed Boar in Curry Sauce

Very gamy like goat or lamb. If you like those meats and like mild curry, then you’ll like this dish.

Alligator at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Alligator

Its boney like rabbit or frogs leg. The meat is a bit tough and chewy.

Baked Catfish (their specialty)

Let your guests focus on the top portion. Focus on the yumy bottom half that soaks up the sauce and seasoning.

Bok Choy and Garlic at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Bok Choy and Garlic

Perfect, robust garlic flavor.

Charbroiled snake in Rolled "Lot Leaves"

Gross. Lot leaves are from the betel plant, which tastes similar to grape leaves. But there is some funky herb o seasoning that’s just off putting about this dish. You can’t even taste the snake.

Shrimp & Pork with Lotus Root Sour Salad

Disgusting. I can’t pinpoint it, but there’s an herb that’s jsut so off putting in this salad. Plus it has jellyfish which is definitely an acquired taste.

Chicken with Lemon Grass and Chili

It reminded me of chicken curry.

Diced Venison Sautéed with Onions

The venison was mosit and tender. Barely a hint of gaminess. Good flavor.

ncurland photo

ncurland

 Santa Monica, CA
 

Pig out at The Zoo

A tasting dinner of 12 dishes? At a restaurant known for its wide variety of dishes and exotic meats? How could I refuse?
Yes, I live in Santa Monica, so the drive to Rosemead was daunting, but I braved it for the promise of Quail Eggs, Alligator, and Kangaroo. YES, Kangaroo! After the arduous journey from the westside, I was grateful for the convenience of the parking lot behind the restaurant. I had saved up my appetite all day, I was starving, and I was ready for The Zoo.
Upon entering Phong Dinh, it looked like a typical family-style asian restaurant. Large round tables with lazy susans in the center, restaurant/hotel surplus chairs, T.V.s on the wall showing America’s Next Top Vietnamese Model. Since I do not travel to San Gabriel or Alhambra regularly for asian cuisine, to me it was reminiscent of an average Chinatown restaurant. One quirk that particularly tickled me: at the back wall near the bathrooms, there was a Street Fighter II arcade relic, and a whoopie cushion vending machine. I was sold.
On to the food:

Diced Venison Sautéed with Onions

Delicious! Unlike venison I have had in the past, this was not gamey at all….although this may be in part due to the method of preparation: Kung Pao. Seriously, this should be called Kung Pao Bambi, not this sauteed with onions b.s. It also came with green and red bell peppers (and chilis, of course!). It was spicy and tasty and really, that’s all I need in a dish.

Chicken with Lemon Grass and Chili

The last dish was another one of my favorites of the meal, also in part due to the lemon grass and chili. Though it was similar to the alligator, it was distinct, and I think if I had to choose one, I would pick the chicken. Call me bland and normal, but the flavor of the chicken was better on reheating, and I always end up with leftovers, so longevity is an important factor to me. Also, I liked not having to pick out little bones from the meat, and the spice was a bit heavier, which always makes me happy. I thought it might actually be a bit too strong for me, but the lemon grass helped cut it a bit, as did the rice. I ended up adding extra veggies to this dish, from the catfish spring roll fillers, and I found that this also helped cut the spice and fill out the dish. Overall, a wonderful end to an extreme, unique meal.

Kangaroo Sautéed with Wine Flame

Ah, Kangaroo! Where have you been all my life? Oh yes, Australia. Well, now I know where to find you, and the trip to Rosemead, though long, is much shorter and cheaper than the flight to Sydney.
I had heard that Kangaroo could be tough and gamey, but not this Joey! They must have marinated it for hours before, because it was tender and flavorful. But I am getting ahead of myself. First, the presentation:
The kangaroo was brought out smoking on a cast iron platter, sizzling fajita style with bell peppers and onions. The waiter places it on the table, dumps the wine on it, and lights it on fire! Yay! I love a good flambe. The wine imparted a little tang to the meat, and the fire gave it a smokiness that smoothed out the wine flavor. The meat reminded me of beef, the chunks were succulent with a perfect char on the outside. Definitely a fun dish, dinner and a show in one!

Water Spinach at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Water Spinach

A slight low point in the meal. The spinach was good enough, and I love vegetables, in fact I was craving some at the stage in our repast. However, it was just salty, like chinese broccoli at any dim sum restaurant, and a little too oily for my tastes. Eh, I love vegetables, but I appreciate when they are done right. This was not right in my book.

Bok Choy and Garlic at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Bok Choy and Garlic

Though NEARLY identical to the Water Spinach in preparation, one key ingredient made a 2 star difference. That’s right, my favorite food of all, Garlic. And not just essence of garlic, or minced garlic, though there were certainly both in the dish, but also huge, honking cloves of garlic! I could smell it right away, from across the table, and as the dish got closer and closer, I could feel my mouth salivating (and this is after 9 filling courses!). Other than the garlic, I appreciated that, in contrast to the water spinach, the bok choy had some crunch, to counter balance the texture of the leaves. Yes, it was also salty and oily, but the garlic! I savored each one of those sweet, caramelized, rich, heady, earthy cloves.

Baked Catfish (their specialty)

This dish is prepared tableside, which I always appreciate. A little entertainment for the diners (see Kangaroo review). The server was quite proficient in removing the spine and leaving all the meat, yet I still found myself picking out a few bones here and there. Oh well, it was tasty! It is served with rice wrappers and all the fixings for making your own spring rolls, along with a tamarind ginger dipping sauce, but I decided to tast the catfish first by itself. It was flaky, cooked very tenderly, but the flavor was very mild. It would be a fairly boring dish if it were not served with the dipping sauce. Oh tamarind ginger dipping sauce, I could eat buckets of you. I attempted a spring roll, but since the wrappers were much too small (I think 4" rather than 6") it was frustrating and sloppy, so I ended up wrapping the fillings in lettuce, which had more tensile strength, or eating it like a salad on my plate, with the SAUCE for a dressing. Did I mention the sauce? Good.

Quail Eggs Wrapped in Shrimp Paste at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Quail Eggs Wrapped in Shrimp Paste

I am only giving this dish 3 stars, because I can’t recall ever having eaten Quail Eggs, and I was looking forward to this delicacy. However, the way they were prepared, wrapped in shrimp paste, breaded, and deep fried, made them into fritters, and all the flavor and uniqueness of the quail eggs were fried away. As far as fried shrimp and egg fritters go, they were pretty tasty, but you can’t really go wrong with that, can you? Also, they came with a sauce on the side, and though I have a special affinity for dipping sauces of all kinds, I was sorely disappointed with the bland sweetness of this one. It was one note, and not especially complimentary to the dish. Fine, but didn’t bring out any flavors in particular, just seemed to be there in case people thought the shrimp fritter (as it is now dubbed) was too dry. I probably would not order this one again.

Shrimp & Pork with Lotus Root Sour Salad

No, no, no. Not good. The low point of the meal. Maybe some people like bland, flavorless, chewiness, but not this reviewer. There was a little heat from the chili, but very little, and heat does not equal flavor. It was sour. And that was it. I love shrimp, and this shrimp was difficult for me to eat. So sad and lonely. I think I ended up dipping it in the tamarind ginger sauce. The lotus root gave the limp salad an odd, off-putting texture. Then the salad was garnished with plain white rice crackers, as if to add insult to bland injury. I would NEVER order this again.

Snake at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Snake

This was an interesting one, though definitely not one of my favorites. The snake meat was ground up, and mixed with nuts, then rolled into some sort of leaves, making little rolls reminiscent of Greek Dolmas. On the tongue, the snake was a bit too dry and gamey for me, and something about the ground texture was off, a bit mealy. However, the after taste was pleasant, whatever the spices were, and there was a slow burn that came a minute after swallowing that was unexpected and quite interesting. Not something I would order again, but I do recommend people try if they have never had snake and are curious.

Minced Alligator with Lemon Grass, Wood Ears and Water Chestnut Served with Whole Sesame Rice Cracke

Though one of the last dishes, this was definitely one of my favorites. It looked like another Kung Pao style dish, but it had lots of garlic, chili, and lemon grass. The alligator tasted a lot like dark meat chicken, very flavorful, clinging to little bones like miniature chicken wings. I would definitely get this again, though upon future reheatings, it did get a little gamier.

Sautéed Boar in Curry Sauce

From here on in the dinner, everything really picked up! This dish was delicious, a yellow curry, very mild and tasty, with red peppers and rice noodles. The boar was gamey, like goat or lamb, and if you like that strong meat flavor, you will like this dish. Yum! The one critique I have is that the curry was a little too mild for my tastes, very different from the curries I usually enjoy. However, I think with the strong flavor of the boar, it was probably wise to go with such a mild, sweet flavor, so that you can fully appreciate the flavor or the meat. Maybe a touch of warmth would have been nice. 4 1/2 stars.

Manila Clams at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Manila Clams

I need to preface this review by saying I don’t think I have ever enjoyed clams. I don’t know how often I have tried them, but I recall having a strong dislike for their flavor, and I also don’t much like oysters. However! This dish made me realize that maybe I DO like clams, that maybe I have just had bad clams in the past. Or (more likely) maybe I only like clams that are HEAVILY seasoned with garlic, chili, and oyster sauce. Who can say? All I know is this dish was spicy and delicious, and made a clam convert out of me. There was a slight fishy aftertaste to the clams, but hardly strong enough to bother me, and was complimented by the spice. The sauce, well, the sauce I am ashamed to say I keep taking more and more of to supplement my rice, vegetables, and less flavorful dishes. Yum!

dhnoho photo

dhnoho

 North Hollywood, CA
 

Land and Sea, Predator and Prey, find them here at Phong Din

First impression, looks like the typical Chinese/Asian style restaurant with round tables and lazy susan trays, but of course Phong Dinh is advertised as a Vietnamese venue.

The menu boasts of exotic and your common everyday meats as well as the accustomed seafood items, catfish, lobster etc… If only Banh Mi was part of their menu, then I will eat here once a week – imagine charbroiled barbecued alligator in Viet style french bread….ooohhh.

Perhaps on my next visit, I will gently recommend that option.

Please read my reviews on each dish, yes it was a 13 course dinner and thankfully shared with 12 others.

Baked Catfish (their specialty)

The presentation was impressive and the medium size was really sufficient to feed 12 people, considering we had other dishes to take on.

The fish is served whole, head and all topped with grounded peanuts and orange slices. Our waiter then sliced it on the table with knife mastering skills you wouldn’t expect a server to posses.

Garnishing for this dish included; rice paper, rice vermicelli, lettuce, mint leaves and you quickly roll it to make a spring roll. However, I felt that the fish itself was missing another element or spices to make it really delicious but overall it was fairly satisfactory. Perhaps that’s why it was served with their special tamarind/ginger sauce, which did make up for that “lack” of seasoning.

Next time, I may ask if the dish can a be a level or two spicier

Quail Eggs Wrapped in Shrimp Paste at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Quail Eggs Wrapped in Shrimp Paste

Also battered with sweet rice flakes – couldn’t taste the quail egg, there was no yolk and tasted like battered fish cake. It’s a pass for me.

Shrimp& Pork with Lotus Root

This was also my least favorite even with their sweet fish sauce. It just didn’t have the zing.

Kangaroo Sautéed with Wine Flame

This was a show waiting to be celebrated.

Our server had placed it another table and proceeded to flambé this dish, it was incredible to see the fire light up in the middle of the restaurant, the taste however was like eating Beef Bourgogne – perhaps it was the wine that he poured before “blazing” the dish.

It was okay, meat was not as tender as I thought it would be and “Joey” does taste like beef.

Diced Venison Sautéed with Onions

This particular dish tasted like it was prepared a la kung pao style. Again, couldn’t taste the venison because of the sauces, but worth ordering the venison, but perhaps I would have asked it to be prepared differently.

Charbroiled snake in Rolled "Lot Leaves"

I have never tasted snake before so didn’t have a previous experience to compare with. It was grounded snake meat, was crunchy but I mainly tasted the lot leaf, which I found out lot leaf is betel leaf – that was I tasted, the smokiness of the leaf. Looks like Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves).

Sautéed Boar in Curry Sauce

If I could give it a 4.5 stars then it would be a 4.5.

One of my favorites but then again any protein in curry is delightful.

The boar itself did taste gamey just as it should be but I have to mention that the heavy sauces make it difficult to indentify the meat.

But nevertheless delicious – a few of us commented that if we were in our own homes, we would lick it clean.

Minced Alligator with Lemon Grass, Wood Ears and Water Chestnut Served with Whole Sesame Rice Cracke

This was interesting as I’ve only had alligator fillets or cutlets. This one is served with the bones and it was nice and tender. Needed to add more lemon grass though in my opinion.

The Whole Sesame Rice Cracker didn’t have a particular taste but it looked nice.

Water Spinach (Kangkong or Kangkung)

Sautéed and seasoned perfectly and not too soft still had the crunchiness.

Agar Agar

Alas for dessert, we were served Agar Agar infused with coconut milk and pandan flavoring.

Agar is a solid and firm gelatin but very refreshing after gorging all the heavy meals.

Rice

What can I say, it’s rice. Didn’t see if they offered brown rice as an option. I would guess not though.

Chicken with Lemon Grass and Chili

This was served last as a dinner item, and you would think after eating the exotic meats, we’d get sick of it, but no, this was one of my favorites as well.

Bok Choy and Garlic at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Bok Choy and Garlic

Equally as good as the water spinach. Not to garlicky and grilled perfectly.

ellie_eats photo

ellie_eats

 Los Angeles, CA
 

Where the choices are endless, flavors abound...

What’s so special about baked catfish, you say? Put it together with the fixins’ and it’s everything in one — and then some. With our waiter’s swift flick of a sharp knife and spoon to the first catfish, we began our group feasting at Phong Dinh. Even eating with a large group, one can only sample an inkling of what this restaurant has to offer. From the 350 or so dishes offered, we tried about 12 lovely dishes, finished off with the firm slight sweet crunch of a vietnamese agar dessert. From the fun of assembling a fish spring roll from a wet rice wrapper holding perfectly baked whole catfish, pickled carrots/radish, cucumber, mint, rauram, green lettuce, to a pyro show of the cubed “flaming” sizzling kangaroo in a dark, full bodied sauce, we had an amazingly surreal meal encompassing land (quail eggs, chicken, snake, venison, kangaroo, boar, alligator), sea (shrimp, catfish, manila clams) and inbetween (water spinach and bok choy). My tastebuds were mostly singing praises of “More” (of course, that is assuming I had any room left in my stomach from having so many dishes in one sitting…!). However, the few surprising meats weren’t as surprising as I had expected. The flaming kangaroo was a sight, but after awhile, I had difficulty in distinguishing some flavors from others — perhaps the spices of one dish were so similar in another, that I could pick out the tinge of lemongrass in the alligator and chicken, making me think the sauces were almost the same (or was it the kangaroo?). Both were really tasty, but I think I just needed time to let one dish rise above on each visit. Although some were a bit on the oily side, all were quite well presented and flavorful, to have 12 different dishes all during one visit was a bit overwhelming for my tastebuds. But I would definitely return again, at least for the catfish…mmm

Manila Clams at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Manila Clams

It’s all in the sauce. I’m usually not a big fan of clams, but the sauce had just the right amount of sweet salty and body to adhere well to the clams to make these little shells a finger-lickin’ pick.

Sauteed Boar at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Sauteed Boar

The boar got lost in the yummy pool of a coconut based curry sauce (great with rice)… Though, still liked the sauce. Just still trying to recall what the boar tasted like…

Flaming Kangaroo. - Sauteed Kangaroo with Black Pepper at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Sauteed Kangaroo with Black Pepper

First time “kangarooer”, not bad. Felt like the show of lighting the kangaroo sizzling platter on fire was just that — a show. The sauce was good, the kangaroo was surprisingly tender (but maybe it would have toughened if I had waited it to cool longer before taking a really warm bite of it).

Shrimp and Pig Ear Salad

Interesting salad. I’ve had cold-served sliced pig ears before, so the firmer gelatinous pieces weren’t that surprising, the combination of carrots, peanuts, bean sprouts, cabbage and large shrimp, with a few other textures (maybe jellyfish?) was rather tasty with a fish sauce based dressing, similar to the dressing usually served with vietnamese “bun” (rice vermicelli) in other vietnamese restaurants.

Alligator at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Alligator

Flavorful, but somewhat firmer than I liked. As said in the above review, after awhile, I felt like I had one of the flavoring ingredients before, in another dish. I just couldn’t pinpoint which dish. Lots of bones in this one — but maybe that was just because of the pieces I had.

Baked Catfish at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Baked Catfish

Hand wrapping a bit of meaty catfish cooked just right, crunch from the pickled veggies, a little earthyness from mint, rauram and lettuce, with some thin rice noodles doused with a memorable tamarind based sauce and you have a winner. A foodie must order this — at least on the first visit (and upon return trips…)

Water Spinach at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Water Spinach

One knows when veggies are cooked just right, and Phong Dinh does water spinach justice. Granted this dish was simply stir-fried with garlic and salt, I’ve only had this cooked perfectly one other time, at Nonya in NYC, where the greens were cooked long enough to make them tender to want to go back for seconds. And thirds.

tinajean photo

tinajean

 Burbank, CA
 

Where the Wild Things Are.

Here is a place to sneak off to if mother sends you to bed without supper. Phong Dinh is the “King of all Wild Things”. Everything is cooked to order so make sure if you want the catfish that you call one hour prior to arriving. All manners go out the window as it’s nice to just dig in with your hands. I went with a group of people which made for a nice experience. Each dish came in its own sauce.

We were greeted immediately upon arrival and seated right away as the staff was friendly. You could tell by the atmosphere that people were here for the experience as much as the food

Baked Catfish at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Baked Catfish

The catfish was fresh and I was expecting some crispy skin however it was nice and tender. The dish is made to be eaten as a wrap because It comes with vermicelli noodles, wraps,bean sprouts, cucumbers, a nice tangy sweet sauce and a plate of nice herbs. At first, eating the catfish alone it was bland but when wrapped and adding all the accompaniments everything seemed to work well.

Quail Eggs Wrapped in Shrimp Paste at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Quail Eggs Wrapped in Shrimp Paste

This was a surprisingly delighful dish. The creaminess of the yolk and the saltiness of the shrimp paste complement each other perfectly.

Flaming Kangaroo. - Sauteed Kangaroo with Black Pepper at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Sauteed Kangaroo with Black Pepper

I can honestly say I like Kangaroo. I can also honestly say that I wasn’t too sure about it before it was placed in front of me. it had a nice texture and was very moist. This was served fajita style. Meat nice and tender.

Sauteed Boar at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Sauteed Boar

The reason I give this dish a two is because the flavor of the boar was not there. The curry seemed to overpower this dish. I love boar and I love Thai curry but the under note of the coconut dominated this dish. Don’t get me wrong, the curry sauce was great but put together and it was a curry dish with boar that I couldn’t taste.

Manila Clams at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Manila Clams

This was a great dish as the liquor of the clams with the garlic, bell pepper and chili added a very robust flavor. .

Water Spinach at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Water Spinach

This was one of my favorite dishes. The water spinach was nice and tender and sauteed to perfection. Reminds me of rapini

Bok Choy and Garlic at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Bok Choy and Garlic

I love it when Bok Choy is cooked right and it definitely was here sauteed with garlic…

Alligator at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Alligator

This reptile was tasty.I have never had alligator like this. I have always eaten it ground as a burger. It was kind of scary to see the claw and I must admit I was intimated. But, what the heck, I ate it. It was a bit chewy and the actual claw really had no taste but again the sauce was good. The menu says minced alligator which is misleading because there is nothing minced about this meat.

Snake at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Snake

Now this slithering reptile definitely needed some work I can not really describe the taste. It was served wrapped in a “lot” leaf as it reminded me of a stuffed grape leaf dolma. It also had a bitter after taste and there was a crunch, I just don’t know what it was.

pleasurepalate photo

pleasurepalate

 Los Angeles, CA
 

Can I Have Salad with My Kangaroo?

I’ve been hearing about Phong Ding off and on for years now, primarily for the “famous baked catfish”, but also due to their extensive menu featuring more unusual meats. When I posted a dinner outing to check Phong Ding out, I jokingly mentioned that while I don’t necessarily want to eat the entire zoo, I’m open to trying some new things.

Upon being seated and given the menu, we were overwhelmed with all the choices. There were various dishes that featured everything from boar to kangaroo, from ostrich to quail, from snake to frog legs and so much more. It was amazing that we were even able to settle on the 10 dishes we finally ended up ordering.

Of course, I had already called and pre-ordered the baked catfish and wow, what a feast that was. We could have easily just had the catfish for dinner without anything else. First, came out all the fixin’s which included all sorts of veggies as well as vermicelli noodles and the wrapper. Soon after, the catfish arrived in all its glory and in what seemed like moments, was stripped clean.

The fish was delicate, moist and tender and I really enjoyed the group’s interactive eating. There’s just something about eating with your fingers and hands that seems so liberating.

We were all getting kind of full with the catfish, but there were still 9 dishes to go. Of the other 9 dishes, two really stood out for me.

First, there was the charbroiled goat spare ribs glazed with spicy bean curd marinade. I’ve never had goat spare ribs before and my thought that the ribs probably wouldn’t have much meat to it, but surprisingly, the ribs weren’t as lean as I thought they would be.

The marinade for this dish was amazing. There was a little bit of heat, but it was a sweet heat. It also had a subtle smoky flavor to it that made it even more appealing. Other than the catfish, this was one of my favorite dishes.

Second, there were the quail eggs wrapped in shrimp paste and battered with crispy sweet rice flakes and served with ginger plum sauce. Once you get over the surprise of seeing green eggs appear before you, this is a really tasty dish.

Quail eggs to me, generally have a gamier taste to them than regular chicken eggs, but the combo of the strongly flavored shrimp paste and sweet rice really cut a lot of that gamey flavor out and just left an egg with really interesting flavor profile.

Another dish that I liked included the kangaroo sauteed with black and pepper and prepared flambe style with wine. This was my first time having kangaroo and it reminded me of goat or lamb just because it had a strong taste to it. I would have preferred less wine but overall, I thought the meat was tender and cooked well.

Overall, we didn’t stray too much into the real exotic meats, except maybe for the Kangaroo, but still this was an enjoyable meal and I know that if I ever want to host more of a “Fear Factor” kind of dinner, Phong Ding is the place to go.

Baked Catfish at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Baked Catfish

First, came out all the fixin’s which included all sorts of veggies as well as vermicelli noodles and the wrapper. Soon after, the catfish arrived in all its glory and in what seemed like moments, was stripped clean.

The fish was delicate, moist and tender and I really enjoyed the group’s interactive eating. There’s just something about eating with your fingers and hands that seems so liberating.

Goat Spare Ribs With Spicy Bean Curd Marinade at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Goat Spare Ribs With Spicy Bean Curd Marinade

I’ve never had goat spare ribs before and my thought that the ribs probably wouldn’t have much meat to it, but surprisingly, the ribs weren’t as lean as I thought they would be.

The marinade for this dish was amazing. There was a little bit of heat, but it was a sweet heat. It also had a subtle smoky flavor to it that made it even more appealing.

Quail Eggs Wrapped in Shrimp Paste at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Quail Eggs Wrapped in Shrimp Paste

Then there were the quail eggs wrapped in shrimp paste and battered with crispy sweet rice flakes and served with ginger plum sauce. Once you get over the surprise of seeing green eggs appear before you, this is a really tasty dish.

Quail eggs to me, generally have a gamier taste to them than regular chicken eggs, but the combo of the strongly flavored shrimp paste and sweet rice really cut a lot of that gamey flavor out and just left an egg with really interesting flavor profile.

Sauteed Kangaroo with Black Pepper at Phong Dinh Restaurant

Sauteed Kangaroo with Black Pepper

The kangaroo was sauteed with black pepper and prepared flambe style with wine. This was my first time having kangaroo and it reminded me of goat or lamb just because it had a strong taste to it. I would have preferred less wine but overall, I thought the meat was tender and cooked well

Mo_menuism photo

Mo_menuism

 Cerritos, CA
 

More "Fear Factor" in concept than in execution

What’s defined as food is relative, so for the most part, I am, or at least, I try to be a tabula rasa as I submit to the first taste of a food that’s considered to be exotic in the mainstream American culture.

If you’re wary of trying the meats not typically consumed here in the States, PHONG DINH is the place to sample them, as there is little to no gameyness, at least to my taste buds…then again, I have an affinity for pungent foods, though that doesn’t really extend over to animal proteins. People who were raised on American mainstream cuisine may find some of the meats to have a gamey aftertaste, though I personally didn’t find them to be offensive.

Apparently, my brain resorts to a seemingly simplistic mechanism when assessing the taste of a species of animal that I’ve never before consumed. In my inadvertently primitive need to relate them to something, I seem inclined to compare their tastes and textures to: (1) chicken, (2) beef, or (3) pork. For the diners who might prefer a more familiar-tasting meat in their dishes, I’d recommend the ones that I sampled throughout the night during my 12-course meal. I was so proud of the relative restraint that I practiced, as one dish after the other crowded onto the lazy Susan (this invention needs a new name…) before us at the round table.

When it comes to rating the tastiness of a meal, I first place the dishes and dining establishment into their proper context. There are certain exceptional meals that I describe as “last-meal worthy,” where I make yum sounds w/ each bite, and that I passionately share about with others with all the sentimentality of a love that I will recall w/ great fondness for the remainder of my existence. I may not classify this meal into this category, but I would definitely commend PHONG DINH for how they consistently procured dishes with balanced flavors, cooking the meats and veggies to the perfect doneness level, and the sauces that accompanied the dishes were multi-dimensional and tasty when drizzled over rice.

I would describe this restaurant as being more Chinese-Vietnamese, as the dishes I consumed were mainly stir-fried, and at least a couple tasted like they were in a kung pao sauce.

The meats were very tender, their protein fibers probably broken down with a marinade that contained some kind of cooking wine, and their gameyness was either cooked out or mitigated because of the alcohol.


Dined on the following:

(1) BAKED CATFISH (their specialty)
Moist flesh, browned skin, though still a bit flabby. Would have preferred that the fish was seasoned w/ some salt, but accompanying tamarind garlic sauce was a perfect compliment.

(2) QUAIL EGGS WRAPPED IN SHRIMP PASTE AND BATTERED IN SWEET RICE FLAKE
There was a quail egg in here? I like fried foods, and I’m also a fan of shrimp paste, but my taste buds failed to register the presence of the quail egg. Nonetheless, if you like fried shrimp paste, you’ll probably like this.

(3) SHRIMP & PORK w/ LOTUS ROOT SOUR SALAD
To me, this dish is more about texture, because I’m simply not a fan of cartilage. There was some form of pig cartilage in this salad, and the presentation of the dish was beautiful, but alas, I opted to pass on sampling this dish.

(4) CHARBROILED GROUND SNAKE IN ROLLEDLOT LEAVES
Pretty much everyone described this dish as gamey, but I didn’t have a problem with the dish, from that standpoint. These bite-sized morsels of snake wrapped in leaves were on the dry and bland side, so that would be the primary reason why I’d pass on this dish for the next time.

(5) DICED VENISON SAUTEED w/ ONIONS
I think this was the dish that tasted like pork. Sauce was well-balanced.

(6) KANGAROO SAUTEED w/ WINE FLAME
As with everything else, it was seasoned well, and the meat was tender…tasted like beef. For you pyromaniacs, you have the added excitement of a flambe show prior to consuming this dish.

(7) SAUTEED BOAR IN CURRY SAUCE
This curry sauce was delicious. Interestingly, this curry wasn’t very herby, and it was slightly sweeter than the usual, so it may be friendly for children’s taste buds. The boar was very tender, and I believe its flavor resembled beef.

(8) MINCED ALLIGATOR w/ LEMON GRASS, WOOD EARS AND WATER CHESTNUT SERVED w/ WHOLE SESAME RICE CRACKERS
This dish had many varied textures, providing a revolving mouth feel. The alligator meat resembled chicken.

(9) MANILA CLAMS w/ BELL PEPPER, GARLIC, AND CHILI
The sauce that the manila clams were sauteed in was very well-rounded and incredibly tasty…I think this sauce was my favorite of the bunch. The clams themselves were cooked just right, where they were perfectly tender, and not rubbery.

(10) WATER SPINACH
Flavor was mild and served as a perfect palate cleanser after being served one meat after another. Water spinach is on the stringy side and tougher in texture, so chew carefully before swallowing.

(11) BOK CHOY AND GARLIC
Quartered, stirfried bok choy were infused in garlicky oil, retaining just the right amount of crunch.

(12) COCONUT AGAR AGAR
I’m personally not too keen on the slightly cartilagenous bite of agar agar, but this was a refreshing end to the meal. Coconut milk was stirred in, and lent its mild sweetness to this dessert.


[ ambience ]

Typical of most Vietnamese joints, PHONG DINH had a family restaurant atmosphere with standard Vietnamese restaurant furniture. The wallpaper of the waterfalls was probably inherited from the building’s previous tenant, but the interior of the establishment was well-lit, and the venue would be well-suited towards larger groups. If the parking is full for the restaurant, there’s plenty of parking in the adjacent shopping center, containing a 99 Ranch Market.


[ OVERALL IMPRESSION ]

PHONG DINH is worth going to for its food, service, and relatively convenient location. I haven’t found myself daydreaming about anything I ate there, but nothing disappointed, and I would describe their dishes as being “reliable.” You can count on having a great meal, as long as you’re not expecting one that is necessarily memorable.

KeenoGuy photo

KeenoGuy

 Monterey Park, CA
 

Dinner as Fear Factor

Am I glad that I ate at Phong Dinh? Yes
Would I recommend that you give Phong Dinh a try? Perhaps

If you like Chinese food and have ever wondered what your favorite dishes would be like with exotic proteins than Phong Dinh should be in your crosshairs. To be fair, Phong Dinh as a Chinese restaurant is pretty good. Unfortunately being “pretty good” and being located in the San Gabriel Valley doesn’t help set this restaurant apart from the myriad of Chinese food emporiums. Exotic game to the rescue.

Our meal started off in a mainstream direction with their specialty, the Baked Catfish. This dish is very well prepared and flavorful. The waiter skillfully debones the whole fish carcass at your table, very nice. What you are left with are moist and tasty fillets of catfish.

When it comes to Ground Ostrich, Diced Venison, Kangaroo, Boar and Alligator, I think these exotic meats may just distract you from some pretty well prepared food. But if trying these meats appeals to you and you like Chinese cooking, what better way to celebrate this unique combination.

Tags
Vietnamese Wild Game Exotic Meats
Website
Video
Hours
Contact Business

Phong Dinh Restaurant  Restaurant Reviews

Copy the link below and paste onto your website or blog to display badge.

Phong Dinh Restaurant is located near the cities of Marion, San Gabriel, Temple City, South El Monte, and South San Gabriel.
People found this by searching for: Phong Din, Phong Dinh Restaurant Rosemead Menu, Phong Dinh, Phong Dinh Restaurant, Agar Agar, Phong Dinh Noodle Menu, Phongdinhrestaurant, Alligator Dish, and Phong Dinh Restaurant Menu.