First, let me say that I am a failure of a foodie...it has taken me 8 years to try this San Francisco institution and now that I have I am kicking myself for the 8 years wasted not eating this amazing (and affordable!) Vietnamese food. And truly, I'm not just saying that...just because others rave about a restaurant does not mean I agree (take the famed Boulevard for example). This spot is truly worth a try...here's a quick rundown why:
Tú Lan has been in one of the sleazier parts of San Francisco, 6th right off Market, since 1977 which is a feat unto itself. They've recently renovated but honestly it's still a dive so I can't imagine what it was like before...I almost gave my out of town friend a heart attach walking the two blocks on 6th to get here and there wasn't much solace once inside. But for me, that's part of the charm...I've lately been feeling kind of tired out on all of the fancy eating San Francisco has to offer and am really enjoying the many dives and bargain bite spots with character and sometimes surprisingly delicious food, like Tú Lan. The other part of the charm is that Julia Child loved this place, particularly the lemon beef salad. Just the sheer thought of Julia Child in this neighborhood, hunkered down and truly appreciating this simple but great food is enough to make me smile. But the real reason to come check this place out is, of course, the food itself...
First up, #1 CHẢ GIÒ...better known as Imperial Rolls. I've had my share of Imperial Rolls over the years but these are to die for...and that's coming from someone who typically avoids fried food. Perfectly crispy and crunchy on the outside and bursting with peppery, pork on the inside. I kept telling myself to not finish these, but we certainly didn't bring any home...oops!
Next...Julia Child's favorite dish, #36 BÒ CHANH - Lemon Beef Salad. Blew. My. Mind. Seriously...and I kind of hate to say that because I just feel like I'm falling for the "Julia Child's favorite" marketing ploy but my taste buds don't lie and clearly Julia Child knew much more than her fancy French food! Tangy with just the right touch of sweetness, chock full of thin strips of raw beef, sprouts, carrots, cabbage and lots of cilantro. Oh, this is a salad that I could eat every single day. Run, don't walk to Tú Lan and try this dish. Trust me.
Last, and unfortunately least was #15 BÚN THỊT NƯỚNG - Pork Shish Kebab & Rice Noodles. Don't get me wrong, this was good but it wasn't up there with the other two dishes we tried. The pork was tender and well seasoned and when you mixed in some dipping sauce and enjoyed all of the flavors together it was quite delicious. But I've had this same dish at many other Vietnamese spots at a similar quality so I wouldn't necessarily return for this dish in particular.
So there you have it...SavoryGirl's very first visit to Tú Lan. Well worth the hype, but I should have never waited 8 years to try it out! I'll be back for sure, likely to get the Lemon Beef Salad to go on my way home from work. It would feed me for at least 2 nights for dinner...and at$7.50 that's a ridiculous bargain. So venture down onto sleazy 6th and check Tú Lan out for yourself...and let me know what you try and what you think!