When Garlic & Chives opened in December at Garden Grove’s Mall of Fortune, I thought, “Great! This will be a nice alternative to Brodard when the line there is too long.”
And for a couple of weeks, it was. But apparently I wasn’t the only one thinking this. Or maybe the credit goes to Garlic & Chives itself, which has quickly become as popular (almost) as its legendary neighbor.
But whereas Brodard is a grand dining hall, the newcomer is more intimate, with only about 40 seats, white tablecloths and a massive chandelier that sparkles like a million fireflies fluttering above the dining room.
The house specialty is wok-fried crab with handfuls of garlic, fresh jalapeños and dried chilies. You will reek of garlic for days, but you’ll wear it with pride. And while you’re getting your hands dirty – and, oh, you will – go ahead and get the sloppy, messy, spicy, amazing chicken wings. They’re big and meaty. You could make a meal out of these alone, even though they’re meant as an appetizer to share.
Same goes for the wonderful little lamb skewers: bite-sized morsels of lamb belly cooked to a crisp with loads of cumin.
They serve a lot of Vietnamese classics, from bun bo Hue to bo ne, the later of which is like Vietnamese fajitas. The beef arrives still sizzling, along with onions and peppers, but instead of tortillas, it comes with a fried egg on top.
They don’t serve Brodard’s famous specialty, nem nuong cuon. It would be silly to try to compete with that. But they do offer very good spring rolls made with grilled pork or shrimp. And if you like the spicy stuff, get the pomelo salad with pork belly, shrimp and bird’s-eye chilies.
Service is charming and attentive. The young chef/owner herself frequently pops out of the kitchen to mingle with customers and welcome them to her restaurant. And if she’s too busy, her sister or cousin, someone from the family, will most likely be on hand to make sure everything is under control. The entire staff aims to please.
Garlic & Chives
Where: 9892 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove
When: Thursdays – Tuesdays, lunch and dinner (closed Wednesdays
This article originally appeared in the Orange County Register. To view more of my work for the Register, check out the archives. I also invite you to follow me and join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.