Lan Viet offers compelling intro to Vietnamese flavors at North Market Bridge Park
The new Dublin branch of a Downtown North Market favorite offers good, short-order-style Vietnamese food from an easy-to-navigate menu
Unlike its landmark Downtown progenitor, the Bridge Park North Market in Dublin is often hopping throughout the dinner hours. And this Bridge Park evening buzz has only become more pronounced since Dublin's recent designation of a market-bordering DORA — aka a “designated outdoor refreshment area” — that permits visitors who purchase an adult beverage in the market (or someplace nearby) to stroll around the neighboring streets while sipping their drink with impunity.
Lately, I’ve noticed that the Bridge Park goings-on can sometimes exude a festival-like atmosphere, replete with moseying revelers, liquid-refreshment stations set up on sidewalks and packed outdoor tables. I’ve also noticed that, when not marveling at the approaching late-summer sunset or slowing down to absorb songs from street-side musicians, many visitors have been lining up to order dinner at Lan Viet (which operates an eatery in the Downtown North Market, as well).
Some compelling reasons for this are that Lan Viet: 1) cooks Vietnamese food that ranges from good to crave-inducing; 2) is affordable; 3) offers quick service.
Another big draw: Order-by-number Lan Viet is a great bet for customers who, whether wetting their DORA-empowered whistles or not, are still getting their feet wet with Vietnamese cuisine.
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Such customers can easily order from a cinch-to-scan, above-the-counter menu arranged into simple categories. So don’t expect a deep exploration of Vietnamese food here, but do expect a strong lineup of classics offered in a manner that sidesteps many of the stumbling blocks that can intimidate newcomers to a cuisine whose dishes can be difficult for Midwesterners to pronounce.
Excellent values can be found under banh mi: Vietnamese submarine-style sandwiches. Lan Viet’s banh mi ($8) are ordered by their featured protein — the server-recommended, properly fat-enriched grilled pork was outstanding — and correctly arrive in baguette-like rolls garnished with butter, pickled daikon and carrot, cilantro, jalapeno, umami-boosting Maggi sauce and mayo. The rich, sweet, piquant, spicy and fragrant qualities in Lan Viet’s sandwiches are delicious demonstrations of why banh mi have become so popular nationwide that they're currently offered in many non-Vietnamese restaurants, too.
Pho, another nearly ubiquitous dish, constitutes a category with five regular entries. But count on several more of these popular noodle soups (served with customizable add-ons of mung bean sprouts, mint, jalapeno, lime, Sriracha and hoisin sauces) to be available as specials.
The three soups I sampled had similarly pleasant, five-spice-scented broths speckled with cilantro and scallion. These were the Hanoi flash-fried steak pho ($14), whose tender and delicious beef was sliced like bulgogi; chicken pho ($12), with plentiful slices of fine-tasting poultry; and Mama Lan pho dac biet ($15), which featured the best broth, largely due to flavor contributions from multiple meat sources that included succulent flank steak, tri-tip (good-tasting but chewy) and little meatballs that would’ve been a shrug on their own.
My large-and-in-charge selection from the “rice & noodle bowl” category (similar to Vietnamese-style bun bowls) was a highlight. For 12 bucks, I essentially received a hefty and delicious combo meal of rice vermicelli, loads of that aforementioned and addictive grilled pork, a not-boring salad and rice.
Don’t sleep on Lan Viet’s appetizers. The stir-fried garlic noodles were a delight and a $6 bargain that was nearly entree-sized. I also loved the salt-and-pepper shrimp (a recurring special; $8) — sweet-and-savory, incredibly crunchy-crusted deep-fried crustaceans served head-on and in their edible shells.
For something refreshing, try the bean sprout salad ($4), assembled with cucumber, pickled carrot and daikon, plus an animating, allium-forward pesto. For something portable, do what I did: Pat down the oily but crispy, good egg rolls (they’re more like spring rolls; $4) with napkins, buy a margarita from nearby Market Bar, and then enjoy this “carpe diem” snack and cocktail while walking around outside, just as the sun disappears in a color-streaked sky.
6750 Longshore St., North Market Bridge Park