LAReview

photo credit: Matt Gendal

Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant review image
8.8

Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant

Perfect For:Lunch

If you enjoy bánh mì, phở, or putting fresh basil on everything you eat, you understand an essential LA truth: this city lacks great Vietnamese restaurants. Los Angeles proper, that is (see: Little Saigon and the entire San Francisco Bay Area). Thanks to fate and certain diaspora patterns, the Southeast Asian cuisine is one of LA's biggest culinary blind spots, like a tennis player who refuses to come to net, or a Jeopardy! contestant who knows nothing of state capitals. 

That is why we worship, treasure, and check in on Golden Deli every other week, a family-run Vietnamese restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley, with a second Temple City location.

Matt Gendal

Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant review image

Although, it was never supposed to be a Vietnamese restaurant in the first place. LA's current go-to for bowls of phở and deep-fried egg rolls began as a fast-casual Chinese joint. The year was 1981 in the San Gabriel Valley—NASA launched its first space shuttle mission, Robert Redford won Best Director at the Oscars, and, in a sprawling cluster of neighborhoods east of Los Angeles, Chinese immigrants began to move in unprecedented numbers to Alhambra, El Monte, Rosemead, and Monterey Park. In an attempt to cater to the growing neighborhood, Golden Deli started as a grab-and-go buffet of Americanized favorites. But when business slowed, the owners pivoted to familiar foods from their home country, Vietnam.  

And thank god. 

The menu has hundreds of items, but glance around at the other tables and you'll start to sense a theme. The chả giò, or deep-fried egg rolls, are a must. Rice wrappers, blistered to the point of cracking, are filled with ground pork and served with bright green lettuce and herbs. Like every other customer, you will need a bowl of phở. It's the house specialty, a slow-cooked elixir filled with ribeye, fish balls, brisket, tendon, and/or tripe. To achieve that signature flavor that can absolutely cure a nasty cold, giant vats of broth are cooked in kettles for hours, simmering a clean, clear brew using beef bones, onions, star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, and cardamom. It is soup, perfected. Complete your meal with a Vietnamese iced coffee, a sweet drink laced with condensed milk. But beware: these drinks are strong. If caffeine in the afternoon destroys your REM cycle, stick with water or tea.  

Matt Gendal

Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant review image

Come any day of the week (minus Wednesday, when Golden Deli is closed) and you'll see long lines trailing out the door. Hungry couples, families with small children, and high schoolers checking that their mother's beloved Kia Forte is right where they left it every five minutes. A meal at Golden Deli is an informal experience, a place where people come for hot soups, broken rice, and plates of basil that empty and reappear like the breadsticks at a certain chain Italian restaurant. Scan the QR code at the front. Join the digital waitlist. And try to not look desperate when the server calls the next party. 


Food Rundown

#62B Chả Giò

Is there anything better than this? The chả giò combines every texture we love in the world—crunchy egg roll wrappers, coarse ground pork, and lettuce leaves fresh with dew on them. Start the meal with this.

Matt Gendal

Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant review image

#2 Phở Tai

Order this, or else. Do we enjoy threatening our readers in food rundown captions? Not particularly. But if the check comes, and there is not at least one bowl of rich, aromatic, delicious phở... you will have committed a sin akin to treason, or like, wearing a black and brown outfit. There are no bad phởs on the menu, but our favorite is the simple phở tai—ribeye sliced paper-thin and placed over a bowl of noodles. Steak turns from red-to-tan-to-brown the moment it hits the soup; rice noodles are firm but not chewy, and the herb plate is packed with a salad-worth of mint, basil, sprouts, and lime.

Matt Gendal

Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant review image

#89B: Com Chạo Tôm & Thit Nuong & Chả Giò

Known as the broken rice plate, we order this in times we're sick of soup. It's a mixed plate, a varsity team of Golden Deli's top foods: sugarcane shrimp paste, grilled and marinated pork, and two of the aforementioned egg rolls. It’s like the 1985 Chicago Bears, or the time the ladies of Euphoria got did a photoshoot. In other words, legendary.

Matt Gendal

Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant review image

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