Tu Lan is a must visit every time we are in the SOMA vicinity (however temporarily closed until March 2013). Although it is in one of the most precarious and unsavory area of 6th and Market, it is worth the extra precaution and time. The Vietnamese food here is impeccable here, cash only and relatively inexpensive. If it is good enough for Julia Child, it is good enough for us.
There is some bar style seating, mostly for solo diners to watch the kitchen chaos. Patrons are of all shapes and sizes stop by for eat in or take out. The waitress is pretty efficient and no nonsense, but gets the job done.
We decided on a takeout order of the Gòi Cuon Thit Nuóng bbq pork salad roll ($4.75). Two rolls were filled with nicely flavored bbq pork and lettuce, sprouts and wrapped in thin rice paper. We happily dipped the rolls in the nước chấm. We wish our mother made this version growing up. We have not seek the bbq pork in a gòi cuon at home BMH’s mom’s Vietnamese Fresh Vegetarian Spring Rolls (Gỏi Cuốn Chay)) or in other Vietnamese restaurants.
The imperial rolls (Cha Gió) had a different egg roll skin than our mother utilizes (BMH’s Egg Rolls with Nuoc Cham). They were thicker, nice and crispy and had a nice balance of meat and vermicelli noodles on the interior.
The Bún Thit Nuóng pork and rice noodle for $5.50 was a steal. The thick bbq pork was perfectly charred and marinated. The bits of oily scallions contrasted the fresh vegetables served with the vermicelli. It is definitely a filling plate and could serve two or would be another meal for later.
Yes, Tu Lan it is isn’t the cleanest restaurant, it’s a mom and pop shop, but boy is it good. Make the visit when it reopens. We’ll be there for the pork fresh rolls and try Tu Lan’s pho, combination plates and fried rice.