February 09, 2015
Hannah An is the eldest of chef Helene An’s five daughters, all of whom are part of the House of An restaurant dynasty, which began in San Francisco after the Fall of Saigon. Thanh Long was the family’s first restaurant. The next was the first Crustacean, also in San Francisco, which opened for business in 1991.
That happened to be the same year I moved to the City by the Bay. I had already eaten Vietnamese food in Little Saigon back in the early ’80s, but mostly in pho form. Experiencing Crustacean was like tasting food for the first time. Back then, Crustacean’s modern Asian fusion cuisine was transformative and fresh. It was groundbreaking, four years ahead of Charles Phan’s first incarnation of The Slanted Door.
The District by Hannah An, which opened on Saturday in time for the triple threat of awards season, Valentine’s Day, and the Lunar New Year, is the first solo effort by Hannah, whose family’s House of An empire includes Thanh Long, the original San Francisco and the Beverly Hills Crustacean, AnQi, and Tiato. However, she isn’t entirely cutting the cord. Designed by Kenneth Ussenko of KU Productions with An’s input, the 320-seat restaurant, like Crustacean Beverly Hills, evokes a Colonial Vietnamese moment-in-time as soon as you enter, possibly because the front doors are 100-year-old pieces from Vietnam. The rest of the space follows suit in rich, deep-hued furnishings and vine-entwined archways.
As far as the food, the restaurant’s name is a big clue, featuring “popular dishes from various districts throughout Hannah’s homeland, incorporating global influences, while also integrating the abundance of fresh local produce and seafood for which SoCal is so prized.”
Expect cross-cultural cuisine like Turmeric-Crusted Chilean Sea Bass, Grilled Sirloin Beef with Lemongrass, as well as “elevated takes on traditional pho” highlighting different regions and using handmade noodles. I’m looking forward to the District Spice Lobster with Hannah’s homemade noodles. There’s even a Crab and Pomelo Quinoa Salad. Hey, this is L.A.