Friday, July 1, 2016

Where to Eat: 14 New Dishes @ The District by Hannah An

The Eats: Vietnamese cuisine, featuring traditional dishes like Pho, noodles and bánh mì

The Location: Beverly Hills adjacent

The Vibes: Swanky, intimate, upscale, worldly

Good for: Alone, dates, small and large groups

When-To-Go: Weekdays, 11:30am until close; weekends, for brunch and dinner

The $$ Factor: Appetizers: Around $18, Entrees: $12 - $44, Cocktails: Around $14

The Names behind the scenes: Chef/Owner Hannah An

The 4-1-1: There’s an upstairs section that often features live musical performances; there’s also a secret entrance

Parking Situation: Valet and limited street parking

I’ll Be Back…: For Hannah’s Famous Homemade Noodles!

As many of you who have been following my blog know, I'm a huge fan of Crustacean Beverly Hills. I mean, what’s not to love about the heavenly Famous Roasted Crab and the signature garlic noodles?

That’s why when I discovered The District, I had a feeling I’d take a liking to it, too. That's because this swanky restaurant on Third Street near the Beverly Center was launched by Hannah An, who hails from the same matriarchal family of restauranteurs who opened Crustacean and who currently run a multi-million dollar restaurant business (not to mention, the Ans also got inducted into the Smithsonian Institute for their Vietnamese culinary contributions).

Now, Hannah has followed in the footsteps of three generations of entrepreneurs, creating a dining experience that highlights the varied intricacies of Vietnamese cuisine while simultaneously adding a California flair. Open since February 2015, The District dishes up traditional items, like pho — a broth-heavy soup that’s piled high with noodles, thin slices of meat and veggies — and bánh mì — a sandwich on a baguette that's stuffed with meats and both pickled and fresh veggies. Then, there’s also new inventions, like the “Hot Asian” cocktail, a lively blend of lemongrass-infused vodka, chili agave and chili tincture (an herbal liquid extract), topped off with lime zest. And, not to be left out — there’s also a secret menu(!).

Not too long ago, I was invited to dinner, to taste some of the most popular dishes, including a few items that were recently added to the menu. Launched last month on Mother’s Day, the current menu features 14 new items, expanding the already extensive selection of choices available.

From grilled octopus to lobster flatbread, there’s a heavy — and completely appreciated — emphasis on seafood. Here’s a look at some of both new and returning items I sampled:

The Colossal Candied Walnut Tiger Prawns – A new menu addition, these larger-than-life prawns have quite a unique coating: candied walnuts. They’re also doused in Hannah’s special house aioli. I loved how enormous they were while still retaining their moistness and tenderness, bursting with lots of sweet, crunchy flavors. A great appetizer to share and start off with.

Here’s another new menu addition — the Fresh Grilled Atlantic Octopus. Thick, hefty steak cuts are topped with a light miso sauce, tomatoes and red fresno peppers. It’s extremely easy to overcook octopus, but here, this delicacy is tender and well flavored.

Speaking of octopus, the Octopus Dumplings are incredible, too. Wrapped in a very thin layer of steamed dough, they’re filled with finely ground meat and have a mildly spicy kick. They’re accompanied by a tangy balsamic reduction. While the chicken, beef and veggie dumplings are available on the regular menu, only the octopus dumplings can be found on Hannah’s secret menu.

Also on the secret menu are the King Crab Legs. Several legs arrive steaming hot and already halved, so you don’t have to do the dirty work of digging out the crab meat. They’re extremely palatable, with strong hints of garlic and warm melted butter. And, these things are massive!

The chilled Hamachi, or Pacific yellowtail, literally melts in your mouth — it’s so smooth! It also manages to maintain a good balance between sweet and tangy flavors.

Similar to “An’s Famous Roasted Crab with An’s Garlic Sauce & Secret Spices” found at Crustacean, Hannah has managed to create her very own version at The District. The Dungeness Crab comes out, in all of its glory, oozing with garlic, special spices and tons of crab meat. It’s more than big enough to share with at least one other person.

Hannah’s Famous Homemade Noodles are another specialty that's similar to “AN’s Famous Garlic Noodles” at Crustacean. Both sets of noodles are bursting with hints of garlic, get tossed in a secret sauce and are divinely delicious. However, I’m going to out on a limb here and say that I like Hannah’s noodles more. Yes, there’s something about the way the garlic lime beurre blanc and texture of sweetly encrusted noodles mix together that simply kicks everything up a notch. This dish pairs very well with the Dungeness Crab.

All in all, I can’t wait to get back to The District. The ambiance is sexy and glam, the drinks are delectable and the food is fun, exotic and different. I recommend checking out this restaurant when you're looking for more than an ordinary dining experience. And if you do stop by, be sure to say hi to Hannah, pictured below. You'll find her here, walking around, pretty much every day.

See you there soon!

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