|Bun rieu from Hung Lam, "Soup Junkie" at Vinyl Wine Bar|
I arrived early at the Vinyl Wine Bar and Lam and his sidekick were running a bit late, so I had time to nurse a glass of Raging Bitch IPA (like a good wine bar should, Vinyl also has a nice beer list) and let my anticipation grow for the soupe du jour, bun rieu, a Vietnamese crab and tomato rice noodle soup. My expectations were high, baited by the handout which promised "Fresh Crab Omelette, 6-Hour Crab Tomato Broth, Housemade Pork Meatballs, Curled Water Spinach, Tomatoes, Fresh Herbs, Silky Rice Noodles." Thanks to my early arrival, I was also one of the first to receive my bowl of soup, about 45 minutes after my arrival, while people arriving around that time were told to expect a further hour's wait. .
I had only had bun rieu once before, a version that didn't particularly excite me, and the Soup Junkie's rendition came as a revelation. A first sip of the broth discovered a complex crab-tomato flavor which held up to the bottom of the bowl. The noodles were as springy and toothsome as I have ever experienced in rice noodles. As can be seen in the photo above, the airy crab "omelette" (more like a cross between a souffle and a fritatta) was a generous portion, as was the number of little pork meatballs that slept at the bottom of the bowl, a hearty finish to a very substantial and satisfying soup.
I'm usually annoyed when people describe foods as "crack" but since Hung Lam calls himself a soup "Junkie" I'll stretch the metaphor and say yes, what he's dealing is crack for the noodle lover's palate.
Follow @soupjunkiesf to find out where Mr. Lam will be popping up next.
Where slurped: Vinyl Wine Bar, 359 Divisadero St., San Francisco