Thanks for the suggestions! Rain prevented us from getting down to San Clemente or Capistrano Beach this trip, so those tips may need to wait until later in the year.
@Aesthete, I can’t thank you enough for your suggestion of LSXO! I managed to snag a reservation two hours ahead of time, and didn’t realize until the drive over that the “LS” in LSXO stood for “Little Sister.” I was impressed by Little Sister Manhattan Beach on a previous solo trip, and was overjoyed to get to try more dishes with a larger group. Every dish was unanimously a hit.
LSXO (“Little Sister Extraordinary”) is the third location of Tin Vuong’s Vietnamese inspired restaurant, and, compared to the other locations, is described by Vuong as “straight-up, honest, home-style Vietnamese cuisine.” It’s not visible from the rest of the mall-- it’s sectioned off within new American Bluegold’s larger space. The space is comfortable and intimate enough that our group were able to share our meal, seated in a row of four at the bar, with no problem hearing each other or passing shared plates.
One of our party was a pescatarian and our sample of dishes had many that were light and herbaceous, yet still satisfying. With no drinks, our bill including tip was a surprisingly low $30/person but I would expect most customers spend much more, especially those who are interested in cocktails.
I’d easily order any of these again:
- Fried okra, mint, tomato, lime, fenugreek (2 orders): even though okra’s not in season, this was as good as I’ve had in years and had no hint of sliminess.
- Rau muong xao vietnamese spinach stir fried with garlic: oh, this was water spinach! perfectly cooked, bright green, crunchy and savory.
- Octopus salad: smokey pieces of octopus in herbs and greens.
- Lamb satay, egg noodle, mustard greens, fried garlic: big portion, very tasty. long noodles were difficult to separate, without cutting.
- Xio sticky rice, lap cheung, pork floss, crispy shallots, slow egg, roasted chili vinegar : lots of textures and flavors to pair with one another
- Master stock jasmine rice : this wasn’t as bold as I remembered from the other location of Little Sister. I’m not sure if the kitchen was at fault— I had this later in the meal, so the mismatch could easily have been a result of palate fatigue. YMMV.
- Lotus root salad, dried shrimp, green chili
- Ca kho to braised catfish in clay pot: tangy, not too sweet, went really well with the master stock jasmine rice
- Pumpkin tres leches with salted caramel ice cream and pepita popcorn: an odd pairing to the meal, but still delicious, more of a spice cake than a Latin American tres leches cake