I've been hearing about Phong Dinh for years, primarily for the "famous baked catfish", but also for their extensive menu featuring unusual meats. When I arranged an outing to have dinner there, I jokingly mentioned that while I don't necessarily want to eat the entire zoo, I'm open to trying some new things.
Upon being seated and given the menu, we were overwhelmed with all the choices. There were dishes that featured everything from boar to kangaroo, from ostrich to quail, from snake to frog legs. We finally settled on 9 dishes.
Our first dish was the baked catfish that I pre-ordered. Included with the catfish were the fixin's to enjoy the catfish with, which included veggies, noodles, dipping sauces and rice wrappers.
The fish was delicate, moist and tender and I really enjoyed the interactive eating. There's just something about eating with your fingers that seems so liberating. Who needs stinkin' utensils anyway?
Other dishes we ordered included deep fried frog legs, boar with curry sauce, shrimp and papaya salad, goat ribs, quail eggs, kangaroo flambÃ© and a couple of veggie dishes.
Of all the dishes, I couldn't get myself to try the frog legs. Visions of Kermit and him singing "Rainbow Connection" was just something I couldn't get past, but other than the catfish, I had some favorites.
First, there were the charbroiled goat spare ribs glazed with spicy bean curd marinade. The marinade used for the meat was amazing. It had a smoky, sweet heat that made my taste buds sing.
Second, there were the quail eggs wrapped in shrimp paste and battered with crispy sweet rice flakes and served with ginger plum sauce. Surprisingly, they were green. I'm not sure why they were green, but I keep on looking for the ham to go with it a la Dr. Suess.
Quail eggs can generally be a little gamey, but the combo of the strongly flavored shrimp paste and sweet rice really cut a lot of that gamey flavor out and just left an egg with a really interesting flavor profile that I savored.
Then there was the kangaroo. I think I watched too many cartoons growing up, but all I could think about was Kanga from the Winnie the Pooh series. It helped that the dish looked like any other meat dish. Some one once told me that they actually ate off a whole a kangaroo tail for dinner one time. (shudder)
The kangaroo, cooked flambÃ© style, first gave us a show. Flaming meat can be quite irresistible. The first taste of the kangaroo reminded me of goat or lamb. It had strong taste to it, which I think was drowned by the wine.
I found the meat tender and with it being sautÃ©ed in pepper, there was a nice little kick to it. Would I order it again? Probably not, especially since I watched Winnie the Pooh later on that evening with my 2-year-old niece and I could actually feel Kanga giving me the evil eye. But at least I tried it.
Overall, we didn't stray too much into the real exotic meats, except maybe for the kangaroo, but still this was an enjoyable meal and I know that if I ever want to host more of a "Fear Factor" kind of dinner, Phong Dinh is the place to go.
2643 N. San Gabriel Boulevard
Rosemead, CA 91770
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Can I have salad with my kangaroo?
Copyright © 2010 pleasurepalate
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