by Andrew Chalk
An unanticipated change of plans last weekend found me and The Moll looking for lunch along the Medical Center end of Maple Avenue. On our way to a regular favorite, I was suddenly distracted by the marquee of a Vietnamese restaurant, La Vui. Hang on, we weren’t on Walnut Street along the stretch from Audelia to Jupiter, a neighborhood that is target-rich in Vietnamese restaurants. But Maple Avenue is eclectic, so every now and again you run across the unexpected.
La Vui opened about a year ago and is still an object lesson in rudimentariness (were such a word to exist). The web site is rudimentary - a GoDaddy shell to a third-party ordering cart. The location is rudimentary - almost under a railroad bridge. The building is rudimentary - a repurposed fast food shack with a small patio out front to capture 'Maple Avenue Life'. The furniture is rudimentary -- culled from an auction.
However, the food is rather good. Brisket Pho ($14.50 dine-in/$16 takeout) displays tender beef in a potent broth accompanied by a generous supply of the usual suspect vegetables to dunk in it. Pork Vermicelli Roll ($13.50) was a loaded rich bowl of crispy rolls, sliced pork, interwoven clumps of seductively gelatinous noodles with a goodly nest of vegetables, all saturated in mouth-coating fish sauce.
La Vui even gets eclectic, with a modest list of sushi rolls (which we did not try) and a Viet-Mex creation which deserves a place as an appetizer at one of those fancy charity balls - Salmon Taco ($9 dine-in/$11 takeout). Flaked salmon mixed with pico de gallo, tempura flakes, spicy mayo and cabbage salad before being, get this, fried in a rice shell. It made for the most memorable dish in our all too brief meal.
Unfortunately, the owner was not around and didn’t return my call asking why the BYOB corkage is $10. He can charge what he likes but would make more money charging $1 like, for example, Sakhuu Thai. Or zero, as is near universal at Vietnamese restaurants on Walnut Street. Wine drinkers buy more food.
All in, La Vui is recommended for lunch and dinner as authentic, inventive, well-prepared, and friendly. Check it out.
FTC disclosure: I paid my own way and dined anonymously.