Vietnamese food has been one of the hardest things to find in a vegan version—which is odd because you’d think a cuisine that is wholly based on rice vermicelli and bean sprouts would have ample veggie options.
Yet as I rudely discovered, Viets love to put beef and chicken broth in their noodle soups, which lead to my undying devotion to finding a true veggie Vietnamese place—so you can only imagine how ecstatic I was when I happened across Lan Café.
This little hole in the wall in St Marks Place isn’t a place I would recommend for a romantic date—but the food is damn good. I’ve been here about 4 times already.
I’ve actually come to like the mismatched silverware, that gratis Chinese flight attendant calendar on the wall and the multicolored ceiling fan that reminds me of a daycare center. All I really care about is food.
Don’t expect the service to be top-notch—the main waiter here seems to be an elderly, grumpy-looking old man who I’ve surmised is the owner of the place (and maybe his wife is the chef?). he can be pretty slow, especially when the place gets busy, but it’s all good. Maybe they should consider hiring more people though…
1) Rice Vermicelli Soup (with vegetarian broth, tofu, seitan, fried bean curd sheet, pineapple, bamboo shoot) $9.95
I really had a hankering for some Pho that day, so I ordered your basic rice vermicelli soup dish… and it did not disappoint. I really loved the addition of bamboo shoots and soft tofu, but wished there was more of the latter. Each entrée does come with bean sprouts, mint and lemon wedge accoutrements, which I think does a lot for the dish. The portion wasn’t substantial, though, in my opinion, so it loses points for that.
2) Grilled Lemongrass Seitan On Rice Vermicelli (served with shredded lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts, carrots, mints, peanuts, and shallots) $9.95
If we’re still talking portion size for this one, then this definitely loses major points. The size of the dish was comparable to an appetizer, especially considering it was the same price as the larger soup dish. Maybe my eyes deceived me solely because of the soup? As for taste, it was pretty good… but again, I wish the seitan pieces were larger. I did really like the crunchy bacon-like dried shallots they put on top of the peanuts, it really brought out the flavor.
Overall, I still come back to Lan Café because it’s the only real Vietnamese vegan joint I’ve come across… but I wish there were more options. If any of you have seen a veg-friendly Vietnamese place, let me know, and I will be there faster than you can say, “vermicelli!”