Van’s Restaurant is famous for its bánh xeo, a half-omelet, half-crepe as large as a coffee-table book, egg beaten into a crispy, airy shell as thin as a Listerine strip, tinted yellow with turmeric, then stuffed with mounds of shrimp, fatty pork, bean sprouts and green onions. It comes with a plate with a harvest of hues ranging from purple to mint, mustard greens to lettuce, and an encyclopedia of astringent herbs whose flavor profile couldn’t be imagined by the American palate. You grab the lettuce leaf, tear off a chunk of bánh xeo, stuff the mini-taco with herbs, then dunk the results in the chile-spiked fish. The results in your mouth—fattiness, sourness, sweetness, heartiness, crunchiness, deliciousness—are spectacular; the mess created on tables and your fingers is out of a kindergarten International Day buffet.
Van's Restaurant is the Vietnamese version of a greasy-spoon diner, the type of place parents would force their kids to go and now take their successful, assimilated grandchildren. The tinted windows on the outside make the restaurant look as... More »