Lan Huong Restaurant, Oakland
On Saturday my flight touched down at Oakland airport before noon and I was happy to be within easy striking distance of International Blvd. for the midday meal. Hmm, Mexican or Vietnamese? I opted for the latter remembering a small place spotted a couple weeks earlier with a billboard in the parking lot listing dac biet specials in Vietnamese.
Once inside, the menu is in English and Vietnamese. The decorations with Chinese writing and the southern Chinese dialects spoken by the patrons are tip offs that the owners are likely ethnic Chinese from Vietnam. There are only a handful tables, and there are more outside in an enclosed patio full of smoking customers.
Neither the extensive menu itself (more than 100 items) nor the large wallboard listing more dishes indicate which dishes are the specialty of the house. So, I selected a table where I could see the billboard (except for the part the RV was blocking) and tried to match the Vietnamese words on the menu.
I picked #35, Bun Ca Ri De, vermicelli with curried goat ($5.50) which is one of the house specialties. This was a big bowl of roundish wheat noodles that remind me of overcooked spaghetti in a thick orange-y soup of mild curry seasonings and slow-cooked meaty flavors. The style of curry reminded me more of a Burmese or Malay curry, than Thai or Indian. The goat was gristley chunks cooked until soft, along with chewy pieces of fascia and fried pieces of the rind that were bloated and softened by the soup. Also in the mix were chunks of boiled taro root, blanched carrot slices, and sauteed onions. It was all topped with fine slivers of raw onion, fresh cilantro, and chopped peanuts. Accompaniments were dewy fresh rau ram, la lot, mint, basil, shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and jalapeno peppers. There was a lot going on in this dish and I was especially impressed by the number and freshness of herbs provided as garnish.
The menu prices include the sales tax. With complimentary hot tea, I had a satisfying lunch for $6.50 including tip. I'll be back to try more things from the billboard list.
Lan Huong Restaurant
807 E. 12th St.