Why you should care
Tú Lan is like the Studio 54 of Asian dining establishments — if Studio 54 periodically had been shut down for health violations.
In a town like San Francisco, where foodies take food seriously enough to starve rather than eat any radicchio before its time or out of season, how rare is it that an eatery gets closed down for health violations four times in one year and still rocks a four-star Yelp rating? Extremely rare.
Also extremely rare: food that is good enough to send lines of people snaking out the front, people who’ve waited out the nearly yearlong closure to get more of the same again. “I moved to L.A.,” said art dealer Marcy Freedman. ”And actually scheduled my trip back up north this time so that I was here on Saturday so I could eat here. Nothing like it in Los Angeles.” And Tú Lan is closed on Sunday.
It is a gem with a devoted, nay psychotic, following.
Tú Lan is a Vietnamese dining experience par excellence — minus the ambiance, décor, service and anything really but the food — and is a best-kept secret that’s totally liable to stay best kept. On account of the multiple health-code violations. And the gamey San Francisco Market Street habitués.
But it is a gem with a devoted, nay psychotic, following, a Saigon-certified menu with imperial rolls that you would murder someone to be able to eat (or what we had this past weekend: Goi Cuon, or fresh salad shrimp rolls — also to die for), and prices that mock every sawbuck you ever spent in overpriced Asian fusion eateries. Of which San Francisco has exactly, er, too many.
And because anything excellent has to be earned, your mission is this: Brave the neighborhood, the lines (it’s sometimes faster to do take-away than try to get a seat in the cramped downstairs. Or the cramped and hot upstairs), and the ever-looming possibility of another health department surgical strike and see for yourself. Pho real.
Tú Lan, 8 Sixth Street (at Stevenson Street), San Francisco, CA 94103 (415) 626-0927