The past two years have been a tough time for even established restaurants to stay afloat. Undaunted, recent university graduate Vivian Yenson opened her first Tây Hố restaurant in January this year, adapting her restaurant model to the mid-pandemic climate in which she was opening it. Tây Hố is a family business started by Yenson’s grandparents when they opened their first Tây Hố restaurant in Westminster in 1983, and it has since expanded into making classic Vietnamese staple foods and ingredients . Yenson decided to branch out the family business west, opening Tây Hố San Gabriel in the classic 626 area earlier this year. She focused on creating a business model designed to weather the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic that she also hoped would become an accessible mainstay in people’s take-out routines. Learn about restaurants in Yenson and Tây Hố – named after the West Lake district of Hanoi –here!
With that in mind, Tây Hố food has to endure the journey of bringing your appetizing meal home from their restaurants. Since this food is prepared with the expectation that you’ll have to take it out, I want to consider two factors: how it tastes when it comes back, and how resistant it is to leftovers (you also order takeout to have leftovers for another day, can’t it, it can’t be just me…). Here are the dishes I ordered for me and my wife, how they held up on the return trip, and how well they reheated:
First of all, tea can be completely excluded from these factors: it is tea. Frozen, bright, perfectly sweet and refreshing, perfection! We both had Thai tea because we love it, and I’m sorry to all coffee lovers for not trying Vietnamese coffee. Next time, promise!
Let’s move on to appetizers:
The chicken wings were perfectly cooked and still slightly crunchy (they were the last dish to add to my bag, so the timing probably contributed to the longevity). The fantastic sauce was more of an oil, with just the right balance of flavor, umami of what tasted like fish sauce, and a tiny bit of sweetness. The wings were garnished with lightly spiced chopped chilies and fresh peanuts. Even better: even after reheating, the chicken remained juicy. Both fresh and reheated, these wings were a tasty win! Definitely need to order them again.
Then we ordered the prawn rolls, which came with a generous helping of dipping sauce. Juicy shrimp, rice noodles, Thai basil, green onion and cucumber, wrapped in a thin transparent rice wrap. This is a fresh, herbaceous starter, well balanced by the rich hoisin-style dip. After refrigeration, as you might guess, the wrap becomes tougher; eat immediately if possible!
For our mains, we opted for Tây Hố Fried Rice, Garlic and Steak Noodles, and of course, Tây Hố’s signature bánh cuốn.
The fried rice featured three different meats – traditional Chinese sweet and savory sausages, succulent shrimp and Vietnamese ham – a classic fried rice enhanced with a sumptuous trio of meats, topped with a fried egg. I can’t tell you how warm it tasted because we ate it all at once; it was just addicting! However, I’m sure it would heat up pretty well.
The Garlic Steak Noodles featured a remarkably tender and flavorful steak over garlicky egg noodles, coming together in an incredibly comforting dish. It’s a deceptively simple combination – the two main components must be excellent, otherwise there’s not much else to distract from the substandard quality of either . The steak was cooked to perfection and the garlic noodles were bouncy and flavorful. And, they still tasted fantastic when reheated the next day: the steak remained tender and the noodles remained chewy and a bit bouncy, though obviously lost a bit of bounce overnight.
Last but not least: the bánh cuốn, signature of Tây Hố. The box was compartmentalized into sections housing the specialty rice pancakes, some of which were filled with a mixture of soft wood ear mushrooms and ground pork; Vietnamese ham arranged on pancakes; a combination of bean sprouts, thinly sliced cucumber, Thai basil and cilantro; a specific little corner for their fried onions; and a large corner dedicated to shrimp and sweet potato fritters. Of course, the box also came with a generous container of their homemade dip.
I would probably recommend that you prioritize your bánh cuốn if you decide to order it – don’t let it get cold! Not all of our wrappers were filled with the distinctive, earthy mix of wooden ear mushrooms and ground pork, which was a bit of a shame, as I was quite a fan. In our box we also received a little more wrapper than there were slices of Vietnamese pork. It’s a fun, lighter, do-it-yourself meal, filling your pancakes to your personal preference and satisfaction. The dip added sweet and sour notes to the bright, savory flavors of the toppings, and only a hint of heat; nothing completely overpowered every bite (unless you haven’t slathered your Thai basil…definitely not something I say from experience…).
We made the mistake of not eating most of our shrimp and sweet potato fritters the first day because we were too full. As a result, we learned that it absolutely had to be eaten as fresh as possible, as it became difficult to reheat.
I want to clarify, though: some things won’t taste so good reheated and aren’t meant to be – no one is going to refrigerate hard-shelled tacos and expect them to be just as good the next day, or think that a steak or burger will taste the same reheated as it did on the original day. I thought it would be an interesting and practical observation to include the reheatability factor, especially since it’s takeout, and also because we can’t eat it all in one day . This way you can know which things to prioritize on day one and which things are safe to save for tomorrow.
The whole of this huge meal – which included two appetizers, three main courses and two drinks – turned out to be $67 before taxes. Before tipping, that’s about $75 for an amount of food that would feed three to four people or provide two people with a hearty lunch the next day. For me, this makes Tây Hố meals a competitively priced, delicious and healthier take-out option for families and young professionals! Browse the menu here and find the Tây Hố San Gabriel and Tây Hố Chino Hills locations below:
Tay Ho San Gabriel:
529 E. Valley Blvd., Suite 118B, San Gabriel, CA 91776
Open: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Closed on Wednesday
Hills of Tây Hố Chino:
3410 Grand Avenue, Suite C, Chino Hills, CA 91709
Open: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Closed on Wednesday