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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen

Posted by Marjorie Skinner on Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 3:44 PM

One of the big perks when we moved our offices downtown was FOOD. We were all bored as hell with the options on our little strip of NE Sandy, and we were tantalized with images of ourselves gorging every day on massive plates of food cart food, just yuckin' it up and having a great old time. And... that kind of happened. But I also found myself getting into an even narrower version of the same rut I was in when I lived in the neighborhood (pre-cart explosion), without business-hours access to former staples like Tube's vegan ham and cheese, XV's ahi burger, and Shanghai Tunnel's drunken noodles. (This probably would not have happened if I were in the habit of carrying cash often, which I am not.)

And amazingly, I found myself actually missing something about the old office's dining options: Unfettered access to vegetarian pho. So I was intrigued to spy a "vegan pho" on the menu of Pho PDX at the back of that weird food court place on SW 2nd that as far as I know has no name, but there's a Koi Fusion there, plus Indian and Mexican food, and sandwiches. But before I even had a chance to check it out, it blossomed into Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen, directly next door at 835 SW 2nd, where they opened just before Thanksgiving.

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While Pho PDX apparently kept late hours and was a popular industry hangout for folks knocking off at other restaurants in the area, my first thought when I heard that Luc Lac was going to be late-night was that I hoped it wouldn't be super sketchy like that other late-night pho joint that briefly existed years ago in the spot where Dirty is now. Luckily, it doesn't have that vibe at all. It's spacious, with a central, full bar and handsome red booths. The north wall has nice printed wallpaper, pink paper parasols hang all over the ceiling, and the south wall has a huge mural of dragon creatures—I like it.

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In addition to the pho (which comes in beef, chicken, veg, and tom yum varieties), there are a wide selection of small plates, including standards like spring rolls and wontons as well as steak rolls, chicken wings, and mussels; beef, papaya, chicken, and tofu salads; vermicelli bowls and rice plates; pork/chicken/shrimp/steak/tofu options of banh mi; and specialties including roasted game hen, curries, and stir-fry.

As for the vegan pho I had for lunch today, it was beyond sufficient. In fact it was so reminiscent of that at my favorite eastside vegan pho standby, Pho Green Papaya, that I am half-convinced they are related—I'll have to ask them next time I go. And with a full bar, those late hours (till midnight Mon-Thurs, till 4 am Fri-Sat), plus a daily happy hour (not Sunday—they are totally closed on Sundays) from 4-7, there most certainly will be a next time.

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