District One puts welcome twists on Vietnamese favorites

Bet you haven’t had lobster pho before.
Photo: Sam Morris

Named for the urban center of Vietnam’s largest city, District One has been open just a few short weeks and is already drawing crowds to the white-hot Mountain View Plaza just off the main Chinatown drag. It’s so new, the bar isn’t serving booze yet, but I recommend you check it out soon, anyway; this will be the next Asian restaurant everyone’s talking about.

It has a lot going for it, including a terrific location and a spacious, comfortable setup previously occupied by Cravin’ Cajun seafood house. For those hoping for food similar to the former restaurant, District One has maintained a selection of “down n’ dirty” options, including crawfish, shrimp, clams and crab in mass quantities drenched in highly charged seasoning blends. But unless you’re truly in the mood for some messy-delicious crab legs, skip that stuff and open up to District One’s creative culinary ambitions.

Tamarind-glazed chicken wings are a solid starter for any meal at District One.

Tamarind-glazed chicken wings are a solid starter for any meal at District One.

You won’t find pork belly buns ($6.95) or crunchy little hamachi-avocado tacos ($8.95) on the menu at any other local Vietnamese eatery. District One is more Vietnamese-inspired than authentic, and that emancipation leads to unique, intriguing food. The beef carpaccio ($10.95) incorporates plenty of lime juice and a bit of peanut for familiar southeast Asian flavor, and a recent special used diver scallop, citrus soy, grape tomatoes, serrano peppers and pickled onions in a zingy cold dish. For a simple lunch plate, roasted Cornish hen ($10.95) is immaculate, crispy-crusted beautifully with spices and served with tomato rice and pickled carrot and daikon.

You gotta do pho, and District One goes all out with impressive presentations featuring whole Maine lobster (market price was $40 recently) and a bone marrow soup ($9.95) with a huge bone floating in rich broth. I love the Mekong River-style noodle soup ($8.95), a lighter pork broth with plenty of pork loin, shrimp and fish balls. I ordered it with chewier egg noodles (ramen-esque) instead of delicate rice noodles. Add a few sweet-and-sour, tamarind-glazed chicken wings and you’ve discovered a fresh new brand of comfort food. I can’t wait to see what happens next here.

District One Kitchen & Bar 3400 S. Jones Blvd. #8, 413-6868. Daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Tags: Dining
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