By Eileen Keighley
Are you being smart and avoiding the lines at LAX this Thanksgiving? Then here’s a new restaurant for your staycation list, one that will take you on an authentic culinary journey filled with the aromas and flavors of the vibrant streets of South East Asia.
Another Kind Cafe, found near the entrance to the Sawdust Festival, is an unassuming canteen style restaurant with a décor of industrial meets retro, complete with bricks, exposed steel, wooden tables and an inside-outside feel to it. The ever-changing menu is put together by a local husband and wife team, Thinh and Vy Nguyen, and is a vibrant mix of cross cultural cuisine inspired by the chefs they met while travelling. The menu includes secret recipes bursting with flavor, authentic ingredients, simmering broths influenced by a splattering of French colonialism and just the right amount of pungent fish sauce.
We hadn’t made a special journey; more like an unexpected detour on the way back from rugby practice to satisfy my hungry family. What we got was so much more. It would have been nice to enjoy a beer or a glass of rice wine, making the delay between our ordering and getting our appetizers less noticeable, but we are told the license is pending. Instead we enjoyed the Vietnamese version of iced tea.
When the appetizers arrived, we all agreed the Soi48 wild wings were worthy of the journey alone. Using Mary’s chicken and coated with well-seasoned rice flour they had an almost crackly crust, enhanced by the secret red dipping sauce. I opted to share the goi cuon, two generously filled fresh summer rice noodle rolls, brimming with shrimp, pork, veggies, fresh herbs and a hoisin dipping sauce topped with peanuts.
Every week the specials menu changes, but on our visit we enjoyed a battle of special fried rice. Special #1 was packed with flavor, carrots, green onions and tomato, topped with well cooked pork belly, while Special #3 featured chicken, more delicately flavored with galangal and served over fragrant jasmine rice fired up with green peppercorns. No. 3 also came with a perfectly cooked sunny side up fried egg ready to be cut into, allowing the yolk to be mixed through the rice. Special No. 3 won the very close battle, although we all agreed that it was made even better by adding some of the delicious secret red sauce left over from our wings.
With six hours in the making, I was not disappointed by the pho. The combination of rice noodles in a broth with beef was rich in flavor, and served with a small plate of fresh basil, sprouts, chili, fresh lime and chili sauce; allowing me to add just the right level of heat and flavor I like.
As I considered the teas, a decaffeinated option would have been nice, but I settled for a well-made cappuccino, a favorite with the morning breakfast crowd. With our culinary staycation near to complete, there was one last soiree, homemade mochi, made with coconut milk. Yum!
For us, Another Kind Café more than lived up to its promise to serve cross culture cuisine in a relaxed casual environment, and to be honest was an unexpected treat. The food was tasty, great value and different enough to want to come back to, and the service was modern, but personal, which we enjoyed. All in all, it’s worth a detour.
Another Kind, 793 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Take out: 949 715 9688 . http://www.anotherkindcafe.com/
Eileen, a Laguna Niguel resident, loves to eat out and trawl food shops, but is also an avid home cook who entered TV’s