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Spicing Things Up Hanoi-Style
By Eric Rosen, Frontiers Media

April 08, 2015


The An family, the clan behind Beverly Hills’ Crustacean and Santa Monica’s Tiato, is the “first family” of L.A. Vietnamese cuisine. Now daughter Hannah An has ventured out on her own to launch The District, a new solo project on West 3rd Street in the space that used to house Duplex. The feeling here is a bit less stuffy than Crustacean, but the focus is still on Vietnamese-inspired fare created using fresh SoCal ingredients. Likewise, the design aesthetic is colonial-era Vietnamese meets California casual.

You might be familiar with the space, but prepare for an all-new experience. Diners stroll in through century-old carved Vietnamese doors. The tables on the outdoor front deck feature welcoming fire accents for a romantic date, while single diners can make new friends around a communal table fashioned from a 280-year-old hand-carved wooden door. Contemporary touches include handblown Edison bulb fixtures, textured wallpaper and weathered bricks meant to evoke a Hanoi street scene.

Cocktails are playful but pack a punch. The Face Down in Saigon—Don Amado Repo mezcal, fresh-squeezed lime juice and organic Saigon cinnamon agave garnished with a cinnamon stick and cinnamon dust—will get your attention. The American Joe mixes Jefferson Reserve 15yr bourbon with fresh-squeezed lime, agave infused with peach roiboos, a chile tincture, mint leaves and a sprig of mint and Urfa pepper for a kick.

Starters include the flavorful District wings with coriander, caramel sauce and spices; a lighter option is the crab and pomelo salad with baby kale, quinoa, mixed greens, mint, garlic and lime. Signature dishes include noodles with a seafood focus, and all are worth trying. Winning in the category of dramatic presentation is the wok-roasted live half lobster with Hannah’s handmade noodles and garlic, while for a more refined flavor of the sea, you’d opt for the handmade noodles with chunks of sweet crab, colorful fresh uni, chive and Vietnamese herbs.

The mild sea bass is given an exotic twist courtesy of a traditional turmeric crust, dill and rice vermicelli. Also among the mains, the braised short ribs with purple and orange heirloom carrots, onion, Vietnamese herbs and shaved radish is a substantial, meaty dish worth sharing with a few friends.

On the more casual side, the pork belly banh mi with carrot, daikon, cucumber, jalapeno and Asian slaw is served on a crusty French baguette, and is good for a main or to share as a starter, as are the fluffy Ban Beo rice cakes with mung bean, scallion, peanuts and shrimp. Just be sure to leave room for a light dessert, like the delicate carrot cake garnished with orange zest, spices and bright red flowers—the perfect cap to an authentic Hanoi meal.

Atmosphere: An authentic but contemporary take on the streets of Vietnam

Standout Dishes: Banh mi, lobster noodles

Drinks: Face Down in Saigon

Hours: 5-10 p.m. Sun–Thu, 5-11 p.m. Fri–Sat, lunch and brunch coming soon

Reservations: Recommended

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