Lunch Lady on Commercial Drive doesn't really need a review. The place is almost always full because its food is so delicious.
So if you're inclined to try the new version of Vietnamese cooking—mainly street eats with bold, bright flavours—you should make a reservation.
On a recent dinner visit, my friend ordered three things that screamed out at us from the menu.
The first was the street-style, caramelized corn. It was sautéed and succulent, with such an unusual, tangy taste that it transported me from Vancouver to the Mekong Delta.
Next up were two char-grilled and fairly substantial pork skewers, marinated with plenty of garlic. While the corn had a red chili aftertaste, the skewers left me with a lingering sweetness on the palate, almost like a drop of honey.
The final dish was the garlic-fried noodles. This too came well flavoured with garlic, as well as with aged parmigiano reggiano.
It's clear that garlic is a mainstay of Vietnamese street food, something I never knew before my first visit.
The Calimansi Soda Chanh cost $4, which is nicely priced for Vancouver.
The server, Dexter, was great, offering personal advice on what to order.
A hallmark of a good restaurant is if you would return. On that score, Lunch Lady passed the test with ease.
On a side note, patrons' temperatures are taken before they enter as part of the restaurant's COVID-19 safety protocols. There's also Plexiglas separating diners as well as those at the bar.
For those interested in the history of Lunch Lady, it was inspired by Anthony Bourdain's coverage of a food stall by the same name in Ho Chi Minh City.
The original Lunch Lady in Vietnam, Nguyễn Thị Tần, shared her recipes with the founding partners of the Vancouver restaurant, Michael Tran, his mother Victoria, and Benedict Lim.