If you ask me where to go for Vietnamese food, my response will usually be: "What are you in the mood for?" Depending on whether you want rice, vermicelli, pho, banh mi, family style meals, etc., my answer would be different because most Vietnamese restaurants usually only excel at one particular dish.
In the summer, when I'm craving spring rolls, the best place to get them is at Bodard Bistro. A California import, Bodard brought the recipe for nem nuong cuon, or grilled pork sausage spring roll, from its mother restaurant in the Little Saigon area of Westminster, California, where they are famous for their addictive rolls.
The secret to these spring rolls lie in part with the filling. The main protein is the nem nuong, a cross between a meatball and a sausage, which is slightly sweet, very garlicky, and has a nice chewy bite. Nem nuong are super-tasty, more dense than sausages as we know them, and don't have any sausage casing. Lettuce, cucumber, and Asian herbs make up the rest of the spring roll, along with a long strip of crispy wonton shell that gives the roll this unexpected crunch the first time you bite into it.
You'd think it was the textures that make these rolls so good, but it's the secret family-recipe dipping sauce that pushes these rolls over the edge. I've had the sauce countless times and for the life of me, I can't figure out what's in it. The color is like a burnt orange, and there are egg drop-type strips in it, and perhaps some ground pork. It's viscous, slightly sweet, and served warm. A friend of mine used to say that it was so good, she could drink the sauce as a soup.
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Each order (around $5) comes with four rolls, which may not seem like a lot but is adequately filling as a lunch main course. It's considered an appetizer plate and can easily be shared, but every time I've ordered something else, I always wished I had more rolls.
Bodard's menu offers pho, rice, vermicelli, and family meals, among other things. We tried the Banh Uot Dac Biet, or specialty rice flour rolls topped with an assortment of things, and the Banh Xeo, or crispy fried crepe filled with bean sprouts, pork and shrimp. Both were very good, but not as a good as the spring rolls. Like I said, at Bodard, it's all about the spring rolls.