Every month I go to my hair stylist, Lindsey at the Crew Salon in the The Lab in Costa Mesa. We were talking about new food places (our conversations always lead to that…) and she told me about a new Vietnamese sandwich place in The Camp across the way. The folks that run The Camp and The Lab are always on the look out for something different when it comes to a new vendor. I thought there has to be something different about a Vietnamese Banh Mi place.
So after a perfect cut, I headed across the street and found East Borough – Fraîche Vietnamese. They are nestled in a space behind Active Sport and right next to Native Foods. There is an Active Sport sign above their patio, but don’t let that confuse you. You’ll see a small seating area under some umbrellas and then you come to the counter which is flanked by two battleship grey colored brick walls and these crystal clear lamps.
They like to keep the menu simple. First up Banh Mi sandwiches. We all know that Banh Mi sandwiches are usually made on a Baguette with some kind of protein with pickled daikon, peppers, carrots and cilantro. Today’s choice was a Grilled Pork. Now let’s take step back, a baguette you ask? Yes, a baguette. The Vietnamese are probably the best Baguette makers outside of France. Short history lesson, the French colonized Vietnam in the mid 19th century and then sent on their way in the mid 20th century. During that time a melding of French and Vietnamese cooking took place resulting in many Vietnamese dishes influenced by the French.
When my order arrived, it was warm. Something I was surprised by. Usually, the Banh Mi sandwiches I have had we always on cold baguettes. This was warm from the inside and had a slight crunch to the crust. I think this is the reason I loved this sandwich. The grilled pork was very tender and while it didn’t look like alot of it in the baguette, the flavor really came through on the first bite. Crunchy daikon and carrots, yet not harsh and difficult to bite through.
In addition to my sandwich I also ordered a Shrimp and Pork Spring Roll. Vietnamese Spring Rolls aren’t fried like other Asian rolls, these are freshly wrapped in rice paper with tender pork and shrimp, rice noodles, cilantro and carrots. A peanut dipping sauce was on the side as well as some chili sauce. Made fresh, they haven’t been sitting in a fridge. While these are usually served chilled, I find that room temperature spring rolls are better. The dipping sauce had a great peanut flavor, not too sweet or salty – just right.
All this and an order of Hansen’s Ginger Ale for around $10 – just right if you ask me. I spoke with John one of the partners of this new venture and they will be introducing a “brunch” menu for Sunday mornings in the next few weeks. Today’s visit comes just shy of their third week in business. The Active Sport sign above the patio is being removed next week and that should ease the confusion of East Borough being a part of Active Sport. I asked him about how they came up with the name East Borough and he said the East was for the Vietnamese part and Borough was to translate to “street food-esque” if I understood him correctly. The Camp does exude a feeling of a small shop on a side street with a few tables out front to enjoy your food.
I will definitely come back – and often! In addition to the Banh Mi, the have a Beef Stew sandwich which is made from a Vietnamese inspired stew as well as a Meatball and Cheese Baguette in a marinara sauce. Another sandwich is a Chicken Salad Baguette with shredded chicken, pickled daikon and carrots, peppers and a sprinkling of peanuts and raisins to turn things up. They have their traditional spring rolls with pork, shrimp or chicken. There are salads on the menu all made fresh as well as a couple of “entree dishes” of Vermicelli Noodles with Grilled Pork or Tofu and another version with the Vietnamese Stew.
A surprise on their menu is definitely the “French” side featuring a cheese and baguette plate or a plate of Cheese and California Sardines in a marinara sauce.
Check them out in The Camp. Their hours are 11:00 to 8:30 M-Sat and 11-4:30 on Sundays.
2937 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
P.S. I may have gotten the translation of “Doi Bung Qua” incorrect, but I think loosely it means “I am Hungry” or perhaps “Happy through Food”. If you know, please let me know. They have this phrase stamped out in the concrete just shy of their counter.