Long Beach Lunch: The Spoonn Bistro
The corner of Long Beach Boulevard and Seventh Street might seem like an unlikely intersection to place a pleasant Thai-Bodian restaurant. Ever since Bouchée Bistro gave up on its transit-facing station at Fifth in 2009, it appeared the main drag's culinary drawl into downtown was doomed to fester in its fast food chains and hot wing stands.
But then The Spoonn (yes, two ns) took over for an old Chinese takeout joint in the brick building next to the El Pollo Loco and brought its entry-level pan-Asian menu and $5.99 specials with it.
I never entered the place for most of its first year in business, mostly because Spoonn's dark-blue painted framing presented a restaurant no different than the MSG-probable one before it. A few weeks ago, however, a hand built wooden patio appeared around the entrance of the six-table storefront and I was immediately drawn inside, wondering why a dark brown fortress was all it took to engage my interest.
I was immediately greeted by an enthusiastic server and a newly printed menu overflowing with not just Thai and Cambodian dishes, but also Chinese and Vietnamese ones. He explained that they had just re-shuffled some things, removed a few of the more pungent Cambodian dishes, added some more approachable Chinese ones and effectively made the Thai-Bodian description on the sign outside a misnomer. A bit disappointing since the closest Cambodian restaurant to Downtown is up on 10th St., but the beef lok lak and a lone Cambodian soup remain as the few testaments to Spoonn's owner's heritage.
Sarah Bennett Ginger chicken $5.99 special
Even a la carte, the prices are reasonable, but for noontime meals, I couldn't help but get food off the long list of "specials"--$5.99 plates that include a choice of entrée and come with rice, macaroni salad, a dumpling, an egg roll and a three cream cheese wontons. If that sounds like a lot of food, it really isn't. The entrée portion is the same sized scoop as the white rice and the rest is a lot of filler-up carbs that, though well-made, made me wish for more of the ginger chicken I ordered, which came with julienned slivers of ginger covered in a tasty brown glaze.
Besides lunch deals to stop the tummy rumbling, the real draw to Spoonn are their homemade sauces, placed on your table for appetizer-dipping or come drenched on every noodle, tofu cube and meat nugget that comes out of the kitchen.
With egg rolls comes a fluorescent orange sweet and sour sauce that is lighter than than Panda Express stuff and is tinged with a ginger kick. And for whatever needs a dose of chili paste, there's the house stuff, nearly maroon with oily goodness.
Have your meal on the patio for choice Long Beach people watching. Just be prepared to address confused pedestrians whose sidewalk has been recently interrupted by a redwood enclosure that now serves as an urban zen garden for customers dining at downtown's only Thai-Chinese-Bodian restaurant.
The Spoonn Bistro, 649 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 983-8998