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Take Your Tastebuds on a Culinary Adventure With 533 Viet Fusion

Written By: Andrew Smith
Photographed By: Nathan Cox Vietnamese Palm Springs

A visit to 533 Viet Fusion is a multi-sensory culinary adventure. Having inherited the traditional menu from a Vietnamese refugee, Chef Chad Gardner has added his own passion and flair. Vietnamese cuisine is historically influenced by its Asian neighbors, something Chef Gardner fully explores. 

“We have traditional bún bò, mixed with pad thai, as well as a Japanese-style spring roll bar,” explains Chef Gardner. He also brings his own background in French cuisine, noting the heavy influence that colonization played in Vietnamese culture. “That’s where the original bánh mì came from,” he adds. “The French took traditional Vietnamese ingredients and threw them into a baguette.” 

It might lead many to assume that the Vietnamese Crêpe is French too, but it’s quintessentially Vietnamese. Predating colonization by a few centuries, its origin is commonly traced to central Vietnam, later making its way to the streets and restaurants of Saigon. 

The Vietnamese call the dish bánh xèo, which translates to “sizzling cake,” a reference to the sound of the batter hitting the hot surface of the pan. It’s a spectacular dish to observe both on the plate and in the kitchen as the chef simultaneously prepares the crêpe and the filling in separate woks. Chef Gardner describes his take as “traditional with minor variations.” 

The dish looks like an omelet, stretching the width of the plate, atop a bed of leafy greens. It’s a bright-yellow golden hue, just lightly browned. The filling of pork, tiger shrimp and sautéed vegetables bulges from the sides. It’s an exciting presentation, awakening the senses.  

There are multiple elements to savor. The pork is succulent and sweet with a hint of spice and a light Asian barbecue char. It’s marinated in lemongrass, tamari (a gluten-free soy alternative) and ginger; it’s then grilled, cut into slices and stir-fried. The tiger shrimp is briefly seared, maintaining its juicy texture. It’s all sautéed with bean sprouts, carrots and scallions—a bright medley of fresh vegetables—with just a hint of mint and citrus. 

You might think you’re on familiar ground with the crêpe, but it’s not egg-based. Instead, it’s a traditional mix of rice flour, coconut milk and turmeric. “Many restaurants buy packaged bánh xèo mix,” explains Chef Gardner. “We make our own daily. It’s fresh and adds a little more sponginess to the crisp texture.” It’s wafer-thin—crisp but soft—with a light, savory and earthy flavor. 

Already full of flavor, the accompanying nước chấm dipping sauce cranks things up further. It’s a fish sauce, which is infused with rice vinegar, garlic, red pepper and passion fruit purée. It’s thin and citrusy with an astute balance of sour, sweet and salty flavors as well as a light kick of spice. 

“Traditionally, you’d break it up into small pieces, wrap it in the leaf lettuce and dip it in the nước chấm,” informs Chef Gardner. “A few of our customers do that, but most just eat it with a knife and fork, myself included.” While each part of the dish is a showcase in flavor, it’s a combination best taken as a whole. Get traditional, roll up your sleeves and get messy with it.  

With its unique presentation and approach, the Vietnamese Crêpe is as much a conversation piece as it is a meal. Indeed, the social element is half the fun at 533 Viet Fusion. The fast, casual vibe is set against Palm Springs Modern decor and ambient music. The minimalist interior and rows of tables encourage interaction. With a bar and a spring roll counter in the same room, it’s lively and energetic.  Vietnamese Palm Springs

The full bar features an array of craft cocktails with drinks like the Guava Mojito and Thai Basil Lemon Drop, offering a perfect complement to the Vietnamese Crêpe. Other culinary favorites include the chile-braised ossobuco and the fried chicken, both armed with their own Vietnamese twists. But the Vietnamese Crêpe is its own unique experience that’s sure to wow you on your next culinary escapade to 533 Viet Fusion.

533 Viet Fusion
1775 E Palm Canyon Dr, Ste 625
Palm Springs, CA 92264 Vietnamese Palm Springs
760.778.6595 Vietnamese Palm Springs