No. 1, or: THE BEST DISH IN ORANGE COUNTY RIGHT NOW: 7 Courses of Goat at Binh Dan

binhdan.jpg
Goat blood pudding topped with goat liver; Photo by Elina Shatkin--I owe you a taco acorazado for this...

Right now, in the Orange County we currently live in culinarily--a wonderful, exciting time, with great restaurants opening weekly even in this Great Recession and the old guard still vibrant--the seven courses of goat offered by Binh Dan embodies our greatest attributes. It's ethnic--unapologetically so. It's sustainable and organic--the goat meat used here comes from the family's goat farm in the Inland Empire. It's epic--seven courses of goat!--and unique: few places in Little Saigon sell goat, let alone seven courses of it.

Binh Dan is family-owned, and therefore individualistic: the restaurant will close at a whim. It's in a strip mall, our quintessential treasure chest for great eats. It's incredibly affordable--a bit less than $20, with more than enough food for two. It uses goat, a much-underappreciated creature. But, most importantly, it's a stunner at each level.

So, what constitutes the seven courses? Let me rip myself off here from my review of Binh Dan last year:

First comes the goat blood pudding, topped with goat liver and accompanied by toasted sesame-seed crackers--as rich and lingering as bone marrow spread on crostinis. Next is goat stir-fried alongside curry-dusted veggies--delicious, but the least of the courses, only because the others reach such lofty culinary heights. Then comes grilled goat sprinkled with sesame seeds--smoky, beautifully gamy. It's paired with minced goat rolled into betel leaves and covered by milky caul fat; dunk the two into a small bowl of shrimp paste for a salty, funky flair. 

Dish número five is one of the best dishes I've tried this year: de ca ri. Vietnamese curry is known for its sweet, almost-apologetic heat, yet it's the perfect complementary flavor to the roasted goat bobbing in the bowl; a plate of noodles on the side serves to sop up the thick, peanut-laden broth. It's a better-tasting soup than its successor, de nhua man, goat stew meant to mimic the flavor of dog. The cuts are laden with fat, tendon and skin, making the broth nearly gelatinous and the meal as suffocating as a dinner of chicharrones. Ending the parade is yet another goat stew, this one prepared with supposed medicinal herbs--the only real change I noticed afterward was that I had better breath.

Let the second-guessing begin--better yet, have you tried this feast? If not, here's your Saturday pick-me-up, starting tomorrow.

Click here for our 100 faves from 2010!

The list this year:

No. 2: Russian Cream at Delius Restaurant
No. 3 (tied!): No. 3: Small Plates at Sol del Sur Bistro
No. 3 (tied!): Pupusas at Pupusería San Sivar
No. 4: Deep Dish at Tony's Little Italy Pizza
No. 5: Taquiza from Soho Taco
No. 6: Osso Bucco Pasta at Cafe Hiro
No. 7: Barbacoa de Borrego at Los Chilangos
No. 8: Prime Burger at Morton's The Steakhouse
No. 9: Sesame Chicken Salad at Sage Cafe
No. 10: Hawaiian Sausage And Eggs at Break of Dawn
No. 11: $4.95 Breakfast at Da L'uau
No. 12: Nem Nuong Cuon at Dat Thanh
No. 13: Cupcakes from Island Cupcakes
No. 14: Pork Chop Bun at J.J. Bakery
No. 15: Chilaquiles at Taqueria Zamora
No. 16: Crispy Fried Chicken at Pizza & Chicken Love Letter
No. 17: Antipasto Sandwich at A Market
No. 18: Pâté Chaud at Au Cœur de Paris
No. 19: The O.C. Burger at Burger Parlor
No. 20: Chicken Pie at La Palma Chicken Pie Shop
No. 21: Mac and Cheese at Ecco
No. 22: Almond Croissant at Layer Cake Bakery
No. 23: ABC Burger at Peter's Gourmade Grill
No. 24: Tripas Tacos at Alebrijes Grill
No. 25: Happy Hour Pho at Pho Thanh Lich
No. 26: Longsilog at Manila Groove
No. 27: Paletas from Nevería Flor de México
No. 28: Any Bánh Mì at Bánh Mì Cho Cu
No. 29: Cheeseburger at TK Burgers
No. 30: Peanut Butter and Jealousy Burger at Slater's 50/50
No. 31: Beef Noodle Soup at Twin Dragon at the Block
No. 32: Bun Cha Hanoi at Pho Quang Trung
No. 33: Blintzes at Moscow Deli
No. 34: White Pizza at La Rocco's
No. 35: #4 at Pieology
No. 36: Veggie Special with Chicken at Chicken Dijon
No. 37: Foie Gras Nigiri at AnQi
No. 38: Short Rib Grilled Cheese at A Restaurant
No. 39: Garlic Artichoke Croissant at Blackmarket Bakery
No. 40: Nuco Mia at New Duc Huong
No. 41: Mantu at Chili Chutney
No. 42: Dipped Italian Beef Sandwich at Portillo's
No. 43: Spicy Wontons at A & J Restaurant
No. 44: Saffron Rice Pudding at Wholesome Choice
No. 45: House Special Pork with Sauteed Kimchi at Koba Tofu Grill
No. 46: Seared Artichokes with Lemon Aioli at Il Garage
No. 47: Green Curry With Pork at Papaya Thai Bistro
No. 48: Mongolian Hot Pot at The Red Pot
No. 49: Beef Rolls at 101 Noodle Express
No. 50: Tlacoyo at El Borrego Sagrado
No. 51: Hard-Shelled Taco at Avanti Cafe
No. 52: Special-Events Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Old Vine Cafe
No. 53: A Big Ol' Plate of Rice With Must-o-Musir at Wholesome Choice
No. 54: Pork Souvlaki at Kentro's Greek Cuisine
No. 55: Toum at Sasoon Chicken
No. 56: Bacon Hash Dog at Berkeley Dog
No. 57: Blueberry Donut at M & M Donuts
No. 58: Tempura Fried Poached Egg at Break of Dawn
No. 59: Mulitas from Tacos Y Mulitas Ruben Truck
No. 60: Pho Ga from Pho Quang Trung
No. 61: Panuchos from Conde Cakes
No. 62: Sandwich and Egg Cream from Benjie's
No. 63: Margherita from TJ's Woodfire Pizza
No. 64: Macaroon at Disneyland
No. 65: The Sputnik at Rick's Atomic Cafe
No. 66: Corn Dog from Disney California Adventure's Corn Dog Palace
No. 67: Bacon Fried Rice at The Loft Hawaiian
No. 68: Charcuterie and Cheese at SideDoor
No. 69: Burger (With Duck Confit) at Watermarc
No. 70: Korokke Pan at Cream Pan
No. 71: Chorizo and Quail Egg on Toast at Sol del Sur
No. 72: Fried Brussels Sprouts at 320 Main
No. 73: G-Style Fries at G Burger
No. 74: Fried Cuttlefish at Benley
No. 75: Roti at Bangok Taste
No. 76: Wet Burrito at 301 Cafe
No. 77: Pork Curry at Miyabi-Tei
No. 78: Bánh Tieu at Bánh Mì So 1
No. 79: Any Sandwich at the Crosby
No. 80: Fish Pho at Pho Vinh Ky II
No. 81: Quesadilla Chilanga at Alebrije's Grill
No. 83: Nem Nuong Cuon at Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa
No. 84: Wild Boar Balinese Sausage at Valhalla Table
No. 85: Comida Corrida at Taquería La Raza
No. 86: Breakfast Burrito at Troy's Drive-In
No. 87: Mandoo at L&M Liquor and Deli
No. 88: Chicago Dog at Chicago Harv's
No. 89: Sweet Potato Tater Tots at Pee Wee's Famous
No. 90: Kaya-Stuffed French Toast at Chomp Chomp
No. 91: Egg Breakfast at Rick's Atomic Kitchen
No. 92: Sticky Rice With Chicken at Quan Hy
No. 93: Beef Koobideh at Hen House Grill
No. 94: $5 Fish Bento at Bentoss
No. 95: Milanesa Sandwich at Piaggio's Gourmet on Wheels
No. 96: Samurai Burrito at Wafu of Japan
No. 97: Carnitas Gordita at Bodega R Ranch Market
No. 98: Spam Musubi at k'ya Street Fare
No. 99: Tortilla Andorra at Anepalco's
No. 100: Lemongrass Chicken, Extra Spicy at Vietnam's Pearl

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Location Info

Binh Dan

10040 McFadden Ave., Westminster, CA

Category: Restaurant


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5 comments
Kenneth d'Frequencia
Kenneth d'Frequencia

Over at Javier's bar some gal with insider information was describing the quality-control model you used to ensure accuracy, credibility, and consistency from dish 100 to dish 1. I misplaced the white paper but, if memory serves, believe it had the following features:

1. More than five dish names in a row with non-Western diacriticals? Toss in a burger or pizza for people who honk for Surf City. Sigh, yes, they also have bird cages to line.

2. Don't need a Goobergeek-type Web search to help pronounce a name? Well, OK, but no more than a couple consecutively. Otherwise, it might start to look like your audience was actually Orange County.

3. Lotsa Asian to show that Gustatavist isn't the atavist certain deep-thinkers claim.

4. Absolutely must have a coupla flat items from Bleak of Dawn. (This one's probably too obvious to mention, but the gal at the bar was insistent.)

5. Here's the entry that threw me -- "No. 4: Deep Dish at Tony's Little Italy Pizza" -- until I searched my memory and recalled that Tony's deep-dish pizza is a disgusting gut-bomb designed to go from #10 cans to the table then directly to the trash, a perfect fit for your "survey." (So, then, why isn't it ranked No. 1, may I ask??)

6. Apparently, OC Weekly labor agreements require you to avoid (even moderately priced) fine-dining restaurants, Pizzeria Ortica, e.g., where the entire menu -- from charred octopus to Roman-style artichokes, lamb skewers to mussel soup, ragù bolognese to pear and pecorino tortelli, not to mention the pizzas, is more delicious than all of the (fairly large number of) dishes I've tried on your list. Need to fix those unions.

How'd I do -- close??

KDF

Newportblue65
Newportblue65

Congrats BINH DAN !!........All the best!........

Carrion Fairy
Carrion Fairy

I was going to get some birra in SA this weekend but looks like I'm booking it to Westminster. 

Good run. 'Till next year!

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

I think it's HILARIOUS that you dreamed up a whole scenario involving Dave and I. For the record, genius, Ortica was on our list last year, specifically their budino.

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