Last week Doug and I went out to lunch to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday. Yes, it’s sad that only two of us showed up, but it’s not terribly surprising. If it was Tonic surely Larry would have joined, maybe even Tim. But in honor of Milos‘ affinity for ethnic food, and Doug’s fear of anything Indian or Thai, we found some middle ground and headed over to L’Annam, a Vietnamese place with good reviews on SeamlessWeb and MenuPages.
They offered a great lunch menu – over 15 choices for $7 – but the majority looked like options off of a Panda Express menu: sweet and sour chicken, chicken with broccoli and sautÃ©ed chicken with mixed vegetables. While Doug stayed in his safety zone with sesame chicken, Milos went for the chicken curry and I tried the bun xao (the Vietnamese equivalent of pad thai). Milos wasn’t a fan of his dish at all. He was particularly confused to find that his chicken sometimes tasted like tofu…what he didn’t realize is that his dish had both tofu and chicken. Plus, he didn’t like the sauce, which is the heart and soul of a curry dish. For a kid who could apparently live off curry, this does not bode well for L’Annam’s curry.
I think I had the best meal at the table and really enjoyed my bun xao, although as Laura pointed out a few weeks ago, this dish really does need extra sauce. But once I poured it on, along with some chili sauce, it really tasted great. It had a bunch of big pieces of chicken and vegetables, all cooked just right, and the noodles were light and tasty. It was very delicious overall and it made great leftovers for lunch the next day.
Doug Feingold, Columbia Correspondent
When the waiter brought my sesame chicken, my expectations dropped. It looked exactly like an order of orange chicken I once ate at a Chinese place in O’Hare airport in Chicago that tasted exactly like it was drenched in ketchup. I was expecting the typical large chucks of browned chicken with thick seeds on them; instead I received skinny chicken slices with a light orange coating and very tiny seeds. However, I was very pleasantly surprised. Although lacking the typical crunch that I’m a fan of, this chicken was still very good. The pieces were flat and flimsy, but they packed the standard sesame taste. Moreover, they delivered a hidden spice about three seconds after the bite that was at the perfect level – just enough that I noticed it and made the dish unique, but not so bad that I kept one hand on the water like it was an old man’s heart medicine. I went with the white rice as well, which was tasty because there was enough leftover sauce from the chicken to appropriately drench the rice and make it a nice addition.
While I certainly did not get too creative with my order for a different type of cuisine (at least for me, anyway), I really enjoyed my lunch. You can’t beat a $6.95 lunch special, and it was the perfect amount to fill me up, but not make me feel like I overdid it. I’m still curious why my dish came with a tomato and lettuce slice, but it didn’t hinder my meal, and I would definitely go back for another lunch, possibly with enough confidence to try something a bit more unique.
P.S. Milos – Liz Seymour wishes she could have been there.The Basics Name: L’Annam Location: 393 Third Avenue between 27th and 28th Who to take: Friends, Co-workers
Price: Even a homeless guy could afford lunch. $ Overall: Good but not great. 3 stars.