Address: 6 6th Street @ Market, San Francisco
Dining Partner: K and Nikkah
-Visit 1: April 23, 2007-
Walking from school down to Tu Lan on 6th is an experience. Granted this is not the most glamorous part of The City, it does come up with some great eats.
My dining partner K and I both skimmed the menu, with Julia Child on it eating with chopsticks (who just happened to eat there at one point), and ordered the Pho Bo. It is a Vietnamese noodle soup with pieces of tender beef in which raw mung bean sprouts, lemon juice, hoisin sauce, sraracha (a bright red chili sauce, yeah, the one with the rooster on the bottle), cilantro leaves, jalapeno peppers and anything that seems to be contained in bottles on every table at every Asian restaurant can be added, like soy sauce, etc.
I was talking to my cousin Star on my birthday and I told her, “Pho makes me happy and that’s my saying!” Pho really does make me happy. Spicy broth with fresh herbs, succulent beef products, and delicious noodles. Now that’s what I call comfort.
I was, however, disappointed with the noodles. K took his first bite and proceeded to tell me that they should have let the noodles cook a little longer. It might have been our preference of our previous pho experiences. I like the thin flat noodles. However, at Tu Lan they have wider noodles that take more bite to eat, which was probably why we thought we were working harder. The broth was great though. One sip and you can just feel the broth going down your esophagus. Just like a warm hug on the inside.
Walking in, you can smell other patrons’ noodle dishes and feel the heat of the stove from behind the counter. The atmosphere is incredibly casual and loud with the employees yelling Vietnamese to each other from opposite sides of the restaurant. The place is small in the front with a bigger space in the back. There are stools at the counter if you opt to dine alone. There is only one aisle in and out of the place so it is not uncommon for someone to brush up against you.
The prices are very reasonable. The Pho Bo we ordered was only $4.50 for a very substantial bowl of soup. For the two of us, the bill only ran $9.45 with no drinks. $11.00 with tip. In general, nothing costs more than $7.00.
-Visit 2: August 13, 2007-
FYI: The first posting I did on Tu Lan was actually my VERY first posting I put up on this blog back in April when I did not take pictures. So I went back and took some snaps.
The first time I went to Tu Lan, I didn’t know what to expect, so I basically ordered something that was pretty much familiar to me. The next time I was to go, I wanted to be knowledgeable, so I scoured local food boards to see what others would order. I came to the shrimp fried rice and the imperial rolls.
So Nikkah and I took the walk to 6th Street. Okay, YES, it is sketchy and scary for some people, but I really do not mind it. Just as long as you don’t look at the people up and down and give them attitude, you should be fine. I walked by there numerous times and I haven’t been hassled. But who WOULD mess with someone in scrubs?
So Nikkah and I got there and were told to go upstairs. I didn’t even know there was an upstairs dining area. I actually liked it because it was not as loud as the front where people are consistently walking in and out and you can hear the workers yelling orders to each other. The décor was not Vietnamese. Ha. There were Chinese New Year fire crackers in the corner and Japanese panels on the walls.
I saw the other items on the menu and how cheap they were, like the pork, imperial rolls and rice combo for like $5.95. But I had my heart set on the shrimp fried rice, so I went with that. The imperial rolls can wait. I didn’t want to stuff up on lunch because I was having a very filling dinner later on that evening with the Fam Bam. Nikkah, who was kind of on the sick side, had the pork and shrimp noodle soup.
The fried rice came out pretty quickly, and I dug in right away. On the menu, it is called, “VN Style Shrimp Fried Rice,” and I wondered what was so “VN” about it. I found out. They put in the usual ingredients in there like scrambled up threads of egg, scallions, and the shrimp, of course. But the main difference was the hints of curry they threw in the mix. I love curries of all kinds, and I usually eat curry in a stew like chicken tikka masala or yellow Thai curry with the chicken and potatoes. Having curry in fried rice is awesome. I did not need any accompaniment with it. The fried rice was a meal in itself, and it was so delicious. There was a tad bit of grease in it, but what fried rice doesn’t? The only complaint I would make would be that the egg was burnt. The pan must have been so hot when they cooked the egg that the shards of egg in the rice were black. No kidding, but aside from that, the rice was delicious.
Nikkah’s pork and shrimp soup came out a little while after. I had already eaten half of the rice by the time it came out. They used the same flat rice noodles as they did in the Hanoi beef noodle soup that we feasted on in the previous visit. The pork didn’t even look like pork, more like chicken. The broth was delicious. There was no need to add any sriracha or herbs to make it even more delicious. However, I like thin noodles more than flat noodles, but that’s just my preference. The tab for both of us was just 12 dollars. Awesomeness.
I would like to go back to Tu Lan. Just seeing noodle dishes and beef stews pass by me made me even more hungry. It is a truly a hidden gem in The City’s tough neighborhood. And I ain’t afraid to go back. =)