La La Eatery: Vietnamese variety
by Aaron Apple and Aaron Kayser
Before we get started with the food, our friend and photographer Ryan Russell came with us on this outing to help give readers something to look at besides our usual top-down “here’s what we ate” photo. You might know Ryan’s work if you read Alternative Press or are fans of bands like Paramore, Death Cab for Cutie, Russian Circles or Minus the Bear. He has a book coming out early next year illustrating his recent move from Birmingham, AL to Bellingham, WA so look out for that as well (Apple even makes an appearance). He’s also available and eager to work with local bands!
Now to the food. The three of us met up on a Thursday evening at the newly opened La La Eatery, a restaurant located at 2430 James St. next to Trader Joe’s, Sportsman Chalet and (the awesome) Q Laundry. The glowing neon sign above the eatery’s entry points out that they serve noodles, sandwiches and gelato, so we were all pumped. And yes, in case you were wondering we did go in humming Ashlee Simpson’s 2004 smash hit, “La La.”
This isn’t your Grandma’s Vietnamese restaurant – this one has Netflix! During most of our meal, Seven Year Itch was playing through a projector on the wall across from us, while top 40 pop and rock songs played in the background. Wooden pallets line the opposing wall with small lights illuminating the tables. The large open room had a bit of a cafeteria feel to it, since we’re assuming the owners must be expecting large crowds thanks to its proximity with Trader Joe’s. Orders are placed at the back counter, right next to a tempting case of gelato. Thanks to recent dental work, both of us had to pass on the cold sweets, which should serve as a reminder to our readers to brush your teeth.
After ordering, Apple’s BBQ pork fresh salad roll ($2.75) and Kayser’s Spicy Flamingo pho ($8.95) showed up at the table first. Because we wanted photos of all of the food together, everyone was forced to wait for Apple’s pork banh mi and yam fries ($10.45), which took an absurd amount of time to be delivered. We also ordered humbow (pork steam buns – $2.50) that eventually showed up, so we treated those like our dessert. Because the restaurant is very new and because the banh mi ended up being so delicious, we forgave the long wait. The place was not all that busy, so we hope that whatever issue they were having gets worked out soon.
In addition to the pho-tastic bowl of soup, Kayser’s dish was served with side plate of bean sprouts, fresh basil, and lime. The pho broth was perfectly delicious, and the fresh ingredients added a nice texture. Though the soup was a great for the cold day at hand, it could have been a little spicier (though, he did only order it “medium”). Fortunately it was nothing a few squirts of Sriracha couldn’t fix. However, the beef brisket had a bit too much gristle for his sensitive chompers, but he plowed through most of it.
Apple loved everything about his BBQ pork banh mi and yam fries, aside from the price. The sandwich was served on a baguette with a soft center and crusty, flakey outside – just like a good banh mi should be. The pork was incredibly full of flavor, adding a nice contrast to the jalapeno, onions, daikon and mayonnaise (he requested no cilantro). Though he loves avocado on a banh mi, he didn’t notice that it was missing from this one. The only gripe here was the hefty price at $7.95, especially compared to some restaurants in Seattle like Saigon Deli serving banh mi for less than half that price.
The pork steamed bun was delicious and we both decided we’d eat many more of them again, but we wanted more substance. The moist bun itself was tasty, but after one bite you could see how much empty space there was above and around the meat filling. Having not eaten authentic steam buns in many years, these were a treat regardless and we’d still recommend them.
La La Eatery is located at 2430 James St. and open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call (360) 389-5740 or follow them on Facebook.