District One Kitchen & Bar
Tamarind Chicken Wings
Green Papaya Salad – Shrimp, Pork, Mint, Crushed Roasted Peanut
Fish Tacos – Yellowtail, Avocado, Cilantro, Cherry Tomato
The Big Bone Soup – Bone and Marrow Soup
Slow Braised Pork Belly in Young Coconut Juice – Boiled Egg, Steamed Jasmine Rice
1lb Shrimp D1 Goodness, Medium Heat
Occupying the former home of Cravin’ Cajun and serving up modern Vietnamese cuisine in a room one part hipster-industrial and one part sports bar it was with a group of five that I sat down at District One Kitchen & Bar just minutes after noon and focusing our order on variety the results proved ‘variable’ at best. Clearly untrained and understaffed to handle a restaurant nearly 3/4 full by 12:30 it was with a trio of appetizers that our meal began and with beverage refills scarce as servers ran in circles perhaps it was fortuitous that none of the first round proved remotely spicy, the hamachi tacos bright and crisp at $3 each while dull, limp wings and the vinegar tinged salad proved entirely forgettable…and not particularly ‘Vietnamese’ at all. Moving next to larger scale items, a duo of pho dishes would prove respectable if not particularly well presented; the supple oxtail imbuing long rice noodles with a meaty sapor while an enormous proximal femur laced its broth with fat to balance ample scallions, though heat remained mute even in the presence of sliced jalapenos. Moving finally to the items that showed the kitchen’s promise, suffice it to say that tender pork belly first braised then rendered soft in coconut milk proved by far the most complex option of the afternoon despite its unexpected sweetness and although a seemingly odd choice, the throwback ‘get down n’ dirty’ shrimp finally delivered in the spice department, a pound of the snappy shell-ons again leaving my water-glass empty while wondering why we hadn’t just gone to Crab Corner or Hot n’ Juicy instead.
TWO STARS: An “everything to everyone” menu that seems to dumb down tradition in order to target a larger audience.
RECOMMENDED: Fish tacos, pork belly.
AVOID: Papaya salad, chicken wings, expectations that anything will be particularly funky or interesting.
TIP: Service is perfunctory and reactionary with little regard for assisting one another. Anticipate your needs and ask for items like knives, sharing plates, and refills early/repeatedly or be prepared to wait.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor