By Rachel Levin for Clean PlatesApril 02, 2015
How fresh is the Vietnamese cuisine at The District by Hannah An? Let's put it this way: the restaurant doesn't have a walk-in freezer.
Sure, there's a small freezer for ice cream, but everything else—from the sustainably sourced fish to the grass-fed beef to the locally sourced vegetables—is used in its freshest state and cooked to order.
You might recognize An's name from her family dynasty. She learned to cook from her mother and grandmother, who established the legendary French-Vietnamese restaurant Crustacean in Beverly Hills. But at The District, An is breaking away from that fine-dining focus. Though the two-level space—with an industrial-chic vibe downstairs and colonial-era Vietnamese manor setting upstairs—is on the upscale side of casual, she's serving up dishes you could eat every day.
Instead of heavy oils or the butter and cream that can weigh down French preparations of Vietnamese dishes, An is using broths, fish sauces, citrus, herbs and spices to lend flavor. Following the Vietnamese principle of balance, each dish is at once subtly spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet.
We would drive across town for the divine turmeric-crusted Chilean sea bass ($35) and the crispy chicken rice paper rolls ($12) served with garlic-lime dipping sauce. And we love how An is presenting familiar vegetables through a novel lens, from the curry-spiced, wok-fried brussels sprouts ($9) to the charred heirloom cauliflower served atop mushrooms, edamame and cashew puree and accented with beet juice and hazelnuts ($17).
Given the supreme tastiness, you probably won't have any leftovers, which is just as well. Food this fresh should be enjoyed as intended: on the spot.