Ah… the wonderful Little Sister. Our good friend Lan encouraged us to go here, and we are forever grateful for the recommendation. We actually walked past this place before it even opened, and went to its sad next-door-neighbor, Barrel Down Under, for a drink (the food sucked). When we walked by that day, Chef-Owner Tin Vuong was in the middle of a photo-shoot outside the restaurant. If I’m not mistaken, we were actually with Lan at the time, and she mentioned that “that’s the Chef-Owner. He has another place in Manhattan Beach.” I didn’t really think much of her excitement… but at the time, I also was not aware that she’s a foodie herself.
Anyway, after it had opened, Simon went there without me for a “lunch meeting” (or so he calls them). I, sadly, was slaving away in the office (I think I was actually just checking out Yelp reviews for this place the entire time he was gone). Simon, for once, was kind enough to bring me some of his leftovers. Needless to say, I was blown away by the fresh flavors!
Little Sister is fun and casual, and they always ask if diners have any food allergies or restrictions. Grade A on safety!
The best way to dine here is to go family-style since the dishes come out as they are prepared. What does this mean for diners? Super fresh food, always the perfect temperature, and no need to wait on others to get their food before you can start munching! It’s a great spot for lunch meetings, and is fairly reasonably priced (around $15-$20/person). Some may argue Little Sister is not an authentic Vietnamese restaurant (read: not just pho and summer rolls). But the food is super fresh, as one would expect from a Vietnamese restaurant — chopped to order, cooked to order, and if I didn’t know any better, I would say there were little minions in the back harvesting all the ingredients as the orders came in! To top it all off, the staff is very friendly!
One problem we both always notice is that they always seem to be understaffed during lunch. But then again, I am impatient.
“Ga Xao Xa Ot” Spicy Lemongrass Chicken, fried garlic, and dried chilies
This was the first dish I ever tried (see Simon’s leftovers mentioned above). In all honesty, I would give this an 8fr out of 10, simply for flavor and texture. However, I would not suggest this if you’re here for a lunch meeting, or out on a first date (or even second or third). The chicken is a mix of a little boneless chicken, and a lot of bone-in chicken… meaning you will have to get your hands messy, which may not be the most attractive thing if you’re closing a deal! The messy nature of this dish (plus the risk of losing out of closing) may drop the rating to a 6/10. BUT THAT BEING SAID… if you’re alone or with friends, ORDER this!
This dish has a thin layer of the perfect sweet and spicy sauce, and atop it sits perfectly fried, crispy chicken. But it’s not greasy! When I had it the first time (when it had been packed to go), the dish had the same flavors and texture as it had when I had it in the restaurant. And I say this only because this is something a lot of restaurants fail at – pack a fried dish and keep it crispy! This is a great dish for sharing, but be warned, it doesn’t come with rice. It is straight-up sweet-and-spicy-fried chicken at its best!
“Congee with shrimp and pork”
What is Congee, you ask? It is an Asian-style porridge, usually had around breakfast or lunch, and thus, you may not find it on the dinner menu. It is a large bowl portion, which makes it good for sharing. We opted for the minced port and shrimp, per our server’s recommendation. The dish was substantial, but fell slightly short on flavor. A bit of salt and spice would have elevated this dish to what was expected. According to Simon, on a rare cold day in Downtown Los Angeles (i.e. anything below 70*F because we are spoiled in LA), this could be a good comfort dish. I personally would probably go for something else. All in all, 6.5/10.
“Saigon Lemongrass beef, vermicelli noodle, herbs, cucumbers, chili-lime dressing”
I think I’ve ordered this dish every single time I’ve been here. This always knocks my socks off! This dish is jam-packed with fresh flavor! The first time I had it, I loved everything about the dish, except the way the beef had been cooked. It had good flavor, but was chewy and the pieces were cut too big. The nice thing at that time was that I was able to set the beef aside and still enjoyed the rest of the dish. Which is why I always order this! Plus, every time following the first, the beef has been cooked perfect – tender and perfectly seasoned! I personally love this dish simply because it is so fresh and pretty. I’ve never had to add anything more to it… and always enjoy it when I order it. I’d give it an 8.5/10 (knocking off 1/2 point for the tough beef).
The first time we ordered this, I immediately looked at the dish and thought “wet burrito.” This dish is exactly what it says on the menu, plus a few words: Salted cod fried rice, wrapped in an egg omelet, with sweet and sour pork in the rice, topped with a crab chili sauce.” The dish reads well and draws you in. However, the two times we ordered it, it fell short on salt and spice. The first time, it needed more spice and salt. The second time, the flavor was better, but still lacked salt. C’mon chef! Let there be salt! I’ll be generous and give it a 7/10.
“Imperial Rolls (with shrimp, crab, pork, taro root, glass noodle, roasted peanut, and chili lime sauce)” (8/10)
Because Simon is not a fan of egg rolls since they are fried (God knows what the problem with fried is!), we barely ever order egg rolls. But these are pretty good! Not oily, not doughy. It’s a crispy spring roll with a lot of flavor (just look at the description!). And the chili lime sauce goes well with it. We’ve order these twice, and one thing we have noticed both times is that they come out late. As in, Indian-standard-time… they take forever! Order these right away if you want them as an “appetizer,” but be prepared… they will make their grand entrance halfway through your meal. Overall, 8/10. Which is pretty solid for a fried egg roll.
Overall, we give Little Sister an 8 /10 for lunch… it is definitely great bang for your buck! The dinner menu is more of a 7/10, because it is pricier, and you miss out of some of the lunch goodness. But perhaps we just need to get off our asses and go back for dinner to give it a fair assessment… jeez….so much work! Anyone want to join?