Beautifully Herbed Vietnamese Food
First visit: December 17, 2011
There are three Vietnamese restaurants in Santa Fe. Albuquerque, on the other hand, has 34. Our dear friends and fellow foodies from Taos (where there are none), Sally and Andy Wasowski, love Asian food and told us of Lan’s, which has become a favorite destination when they get the Vietnamese urge. Today, we met them there for lunch. Excellent choice.
My benchmark dish for Vietnamese food is Phở Tái Nam. Phở is a Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served with beef (phở bò) or chicken (phở gà). The soup includes noodles made from rice and is often served with Vietnamese basil, mint leaves, lime, and bean sprouts that are added to the soup by the person who is dining. The dish is associated with the city of Hanoi, where the first pho restaurant opened in the 1920s.
When I order Phở, I always ask for Phở Tái Nam. This is not available here, so I settled for tái (thin sly sliced raw beef which is allowed to cook slightly in the broth. I get the tái on a separate plate and add it to my broth at the table so it doesn’t overcook. They were unwilling to do this for me, so I asked for the meat to be added just before the bowl was brought to the table. The meat turned out to be overcooked anyway. he noodles were thicker that I prefer, but the broth — absolutely heavenly. The best part about eating phở is the aroma. Despite the minor (and personal) gaffes, the dish was as good as any I have had. Score one for Lan.
Raw beef marinated in lime juice and ginger with fresh herbs.
Here we get the raw beef. This is quality beef with a fine taste and texture. The lime marinade is out of this world, and the herbs, spices, and other ingredients make for a dish that is superior in every way. Get brave and order it double size as an entrée.
Lamb Won Tons
I have never tasted lamb won tons before. I am hooked now. These delicate and succulent morsels are swimming in a light herb-laden and spicy sauce that might just blow your mind. Forget whatever prejudices you may have developed from those awful formula Chinese-American joints that dot every town’s landscape. Lan’s won tons with tasty lamb are the real thing. Don’t share this appetizer. Eat them all yourself.
Pan grilled marinated lamb wi lemongrass, green olive, garlic, ginger, pineapple, green onions, side of green salad with organic carrots, cucumber, organic arugala, bean + radish sprouts, served wi jasmine rice or vermicelli noodles.
Jane had this dish. The plate was nearly empty when she came up for air, and sheepishly asked me if I wanted a taste. I thought she’d never ask. Once again, Lan was on target. No flavor dominated, and the powerful lemongrass held all the other flavorings together. Magnificent.
Lai Gu Lamb Stew
Marinated lamb wi garlic, ginger, green onion, shallots, 5 spice, wi org. carrots, mg. tomato, served wi brown rice noodles or organic brown rice.
This was our third lamb dish, and Andy ordered it because he had had it before. Andy does this a lot. A normally loquacious guy, he hunched overt the plate gobbling it up. I never got to taste it, but Andy’s reaction was telling. This is yet another very beautiful plate. Lan is quite the artist.
Homemade Shrimp Dumplings
with organic carrots, bean sprouts, onions
shallots, cilantro, mint and seasame seeds
wi homemade mint sauce.
Sure, you’ve had shrimp dumplings before. All the strip-mall Chinese joints serve them and they taste like they just fell off the Sysco truck. But you fave never had shrimp dumplings like this. The blend of tastes is exemplary. The closest similar dish to Lan’s is served up by Hsia Fang at Budai in Albuquerque. Budai is one of the best and most popular restaurants in the Duke City. Lan’s is one of the best and most popular restaurants in The City Different.
Lan prepares some of the most delicate and delicious Vietnamese food that I have yet tasted. The spicing and herbing is mouth watering. The blends are unbelieveably good — nothing dominates. When you go here (and you really should), you should try several of the lamb dishes. Best lamb I have had in a Vietnamese restaurant. Ingredients are very fresh and organic, wherever possible.
The service is spot-on, and Lan is a delight to talk with. She really knows what she is doing. When you’re tired of New Mexican or touristy Santa Fe food or simply want a real treat that is beautifully prepared, eat here.
What others are saying….
Dan M (on Urbanspoon )
“I enjoyed this place. I had shaking beef and it had very good herbal seasoning. I noticed the herb flavors being stronger at Lan’s than at most other Asian restaurants I have eaten at. A word of caution: they don’t provide any heat in the food — they leave that up to you to do with Sri-Racha or chili oil. I have mixed feelings on that since I think the heat is hard to stir in once the meal is on top of the accompanying rice or noodles (unless you want it all stirred together, which I don’t). Also, the some lives of beef were a bit on the dry side. While I’ve had better shaking beef I really did enjoy the strong herbal notes and would go back again. We started with the lamb won tons and they were really good.”
Knifethrower : Creative and Thoughtful (on Urbanspoon)
“‘Thoughtful’, not as a sentimental thing, but as a deliberate, healthful and meaningful approach to combining ingredients and flavors. Lan is a conscientious cook with fantastic technique and her cuisine is truly enjoyable.
If you have the opportunity to chat with her, she will share her philosophy of combining foods with you and the menu takes on a whole deeper meaning than just words on paper.
Pan seared lamb was perfectly done, well rested and seasoned heartily but complimentary. Bean paste filled wontons were nice on the palate, accompanied well and delicately done. The rice pancake was flavored well and filled with chicken and shrimp- the only criticism I can offer is that the shrimp were very overcooked. Sauces and garnishes were flattering to each dish, almost unnecessary, but fun to dip into.”