Famously greasy and cheap Vietnamese dive Tu Lan (8 Sixth Street) was forced to close last summer, quite abruptly, after repeated health violations that had caused temporary closures over the previous few years. Now, after a top-to-bottom renovation and thorough scrubbing, the Nguyen family are reopening today with a brand new, squeaky clean kitchen, and the exact same menu. Prices are pretty much the same too, with a 25-cent increase on all dishes.
You can see some photos of how extensive the remodel was here, and Inside Scoop has a couple of shots of the new look. We can only hope the Julia Child illustration remains on the menus–Child famously ate there in the early 80s, and enjoyed herself.
With that in mind, allow us to suggest which dishes are the best introduction to this beloved Sixth Street institution, which we expect will be as good as they used to be, minus the greasy tables and roaming roaches.
#1 Imperial Rolls (Cha Gió) - You may have had something similar elsewhere, but Tu Lan's Imperial Rolls are uniquely addictive, and greasy. They're darkly double-fried and super crispy on the outside, with a delicious, slightly spicy, porky filling, and served with a sweet dipping sauce. If you haven't had them, don't do so now if there's a diet in your near future, because they're dangerous, and you'll be back for more.
#17 Pork Kebab/Imperial Roll combo (Bún Cha Gió Thit Nuóng, pictured) - Take the glory of those Imperial Rolls and add them atop a rice bowl with some delicious, marinated pork kebabs.
#23 Shrimp Fried Rice (Com Chiên Tôm) - A stellar version.
#29 Ginger Chicken (Ga Gung) - Possibly our favorite of the stir-fried dishes on the menu, this mixture of pungent ginger sauce, diced chicken, green onion, and bamboo shoots is well worth the $6.50.
#36 Lemon Beef Salad (Bó Chanh) - More delicious than it sounds, and if you aren't familiar with the dish, featuring lemon-seasoned beef, rice noodles, dressing, and lettuce, give it a try.
#50 Pork with Vietnamese Pickled Cabbage (Heo Xáo Cai Chua) - Super tasty, and Tu Lan does pork best.
#63 Asparagus Soup with Crab (Mang Cua) - A great version of this eggy Vietnamese soup, which also comes with the Special Seafood Family Dinner for five.
#65 Squid Curry (Muc Cari) - Tu Lan's creamy curry sauce goes great with squid, which are also tossed with onions and peppers.