Wanting to continue our ongoing survey of nem nuong, the spring roll Katherine Nguyen wrote about in Orange Coast, I searched for the Vietnamese restaurant nearest Trabuco Canyon and turned up Eleven46 Kitchen in Foothill Ranch. Convenient! I love that Viet places are continuing to sprout outside of Little Saigon—especially when they come closer to me.
Eleven46’s nem nuong were excellent, with tender sausage and a different take on the necessary fried eggroll-wrapper element. Rather than a plain strip, the pastry sheet was coiled around a scallion and fried, making a crispy tube about the diameter of a boba tea straw that added a lot of interest rolled up in the rice paper with sausage and lettuce and herbs—and of course texture is a big part of the nem nuong story. Nem nuong, and a variety of other rolls including egg rolls with an especially good dipping sauce, are $4.95 for three.
Waiting for our rolls, a customer sipping Vietnamese coffee told us we had to get beignets—he was there that morning at his daughter’s request to take several orders home for her birthday sleepover guests. The young lady behind the counter said it’ll be just a minute: her Mom, owner Le Cao, was rolling them out. At least we knew they’d be fresh, right? Cao was inspired by the classic beignets of New Orleans, working on hers for three years to get the fluffiness she wanted.
It wasn’t long before we got our own light-gold, palm-sized pillows. Cao nailed the fluffiness—the squares were soft, but with structural integrity. Be warned that the menu is SO not exaggerating the “heavily dusted with powdered sugar”—drifting white clouds are a minor hazard of beignet eating. A three-piece order is $2.50.
In addition to its regular menu of Viet specialties, including banh mi on baked-there bread, 7-month-old Eleven46 serves pho on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Eleven46 Kitchen, 45 Auto Center Drive, Foothill Ranch, 949-215-1146