The lunch lady was made famous by an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. She is known for her street food stall in Saigon. On my trip to Vietnam a couple of years ago, I did not visit as a friend had advised me that the food had deteriorated and that the place had become a tourist trap.
Fast forward to 2021, where someone from Vancouver has struck a deal to open “Lunch Lady” in Vancouver. I did not know what to expect but I did not have high expectations based on my friend’s comments, it sounded a bit gimmicky, and its hard to take food that is already pretty much perfect, put a spin on it, and charge more (and do it well).
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised and will definitely be back. I started with a Vietnamese take on the negroni. I like the presentation and the hint of Vietnamese coffee which balance the drink. It was not overpowering or sweet.
We started with the Pho Marrow. It was delicious and creative. Lots of flavor that went well with the bone marrow.
Next garlic noodles and fried rice. I was intrigued by the description of the noodles on the menu as they were sprinkled with parm. It was a recurring theme of the menu where the chefs would throw in some “Western Fusion” but it was done well and not trying “too hard”. The noodles were pretty good.
The rice was good as well with flavor and good texture. I wish there was more ingredients though, especially the Chinese sausage.
The star of the evening was the grilled Iberico pork, one of the best things I have eaten this year (even though its only 7 days into the New Year, this will probably remain on top for the whole year, its that good!). Although it was an Iberico pork, our server said it came from Japan. The pork was perfectly cooked, extremely tender, had a great char, and an amazing “street” grilled taste. The only downside is that we were informed that they were taking it off the menu that night! Please put it back. Very very very delicious.
To finish we tried the beef pho. Broth was good and the beef was very tender.
For dessert, we had the restaurant’s creative interpretation of a Che Ba Mau (in the Philippines we would call this a Halo Halo) – if you Google it, you will see what I mean. Condensed milk ice cream, and pandan. I wished the pandan had more pandan flavor, but it was still a good dessert.
Overall, service was good, though the bar was slow to put out the first set of drinks. The food was really good. I would return and hope that whatever is replacing the Iberico pork is just as amazing! By the way, the atmosphere was great. They managed to maintain a street feel with a modern twist. I liked the authentic steel tables which were stamped “made in Vietnam”.