Friday, April 25, 2008

Lucky Corner - Lucky You!

I have been a huge fan of Vietnamese food ever since my first taste back in the early 80’s. 25 years ago, this branch of Asian cooking was not yet the ubiquitous staple on the scene as it is now. I was duly impressed with the bright flavors and the generous use of herbs and aromatics to boost flavor. Pho and Bun became regular go-to dishes when I was in the mood for Asian.

Over the last 25 years since my first taste, I have had the chance to sample both wonderful and pedestrian versions of my favorites. I have found Lucky Corner at the corner of 7th and Market Street to be a mostly pleasant place to have a meal.

As has happened with much of the ethnic food that is served in the US, the chefs , in an attempt to appeal to the masses, dumb-down their offerings. In Asian restaurants especially, this generally takes the form of dumping mounds of sugar into the dish. Yes, the kids will then love it – but adults with a hankering for authenticity can be thwarted by a sugar rush.

This is the case with some of the dishes at Lucky Corner. In particular, the Black Pepper Shrimp (or sometimes chicken) tastes more like dessert than an entrée. I know that sugar is a traditional ingredient in this dish – but it is an accent flavor and shouldn’t be the primary taste note.

The summer rolls are insipid – lacking any oomph to stand on their own. The hoisin/peanut/sriracha dipping sauce is an absolute necessity to get any flavor. I’m not sure why these are so pricy – they are mostly noodles topped by an almost transparent sliver of shrimp, a touch of mint and tightly bound in moistened rice paper. I will say that I am always impressed by how tightly they can roll these things. My attempts at home never duplicate their results.

On a brighter note – the pho is very good. A large portion filled with all the usuals – thinly sliced meat, bean sprouts, lime, jalapeno, noodles, aromatic with star anise. Sometimes the basil & cilantro are missing – but a request to bring an extra plate of them is always fulfilled quickly. The large is more than enough for two to share.

The Cha Gio are tasty – but as is common in restaurants, they aren’t filled with enough of the good stuff that you would expect for the price. I always hope for seasoned ground pork, shitakes, maybe some nice crab. There are just too many fillers in these bites to qualify as a good value. But, as a lover of just about anything fried – they do taste good – especially when wrapped in a lettuce leaf and dunked in the nuoc nam.

The bun dishes are very good – nice and light with plenty of grilled meat (the grilled pork is sweet and carmelized), perched on a bed of lettuce, chilled cucumbers, scallions and rice vermicelli. The nuoc nam is, of course, a bit on the overly sweet side – but is otherwise nice and pungent. It doesn’t have a kick like some do – so you have to add your own heat if you like some spice.

Overall, I do like Lucky Corner. It’s not the most authentic Vietnamese food I’ve ever had – but it’s definitely worth putting on your go-list.


Anonymous said...

Viet Aroma off of Jefferson, next to the Weis, is a great Vietnamese restaurant as well. It's pho is much better than Lucky Corner's. I find Lucky Corner's pho to be too sweet, but Viet Aroma's tastes just like the pho I grew up eating--I'm Vietnamese. They also have rice and noodle dishes. I also recommend their sweet and sour soup with the caramel fish in clay pot. It's my go to comfort food.

Dining Diva said...

Yes, I like their pho as well. I haven't tried their caramel fish - sounds like its worth a visit.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting about your experience with restaurants, ms. dining diva. Just a little insight about vietnamese food that I would like to share here: Different vietnam region would have different taste. If the food is on the sweet side (like Lucky Corner), more than likely the cooking is from the southern part of vietnam. If the food is on the salty side (like Viet Aroma), it would be from central vietnam, and if it's really salty, it would be from north vietnam. When it comes to certain dishes like Pho or Spring Rolls, the vietnamese cooks don't "americanize" the food. It's just how they know how to cook from where they learned it. The cooks don't have time to analyze what americans want, and most of them don't even want to talk to americans. :) They just do what they know how. Personally, both Lucky Corner and Viet Aroma would rank just below good for me. I wish Old Town Saigon (sweet, south region) would come back. Their food was fantastic. An Loi (salty, central region) was pretty good as well. I hope they would come back as well. For now, I will settle for Lucky Corner. :)

Ryan said...

I hang out with couple Vietnamese friends in Frederick, they all think Viet’s Aroma is better than Lucky Corner. I strongly agree with them!

Response to Ms. Dinning Diva, if Pho and Bun are your “regular go-to dishes”, you must try them at Viet’s Aroma. They are hot sale items at this restaurant. I come here often for lunch, and I see people order these dishes all the time. I love their Bun with Lemon Grass Beef / Chicken or Bun Combination of Spring Roll, Shrimp and Pork. Their Pho is the best in town. As I remember, I read about their “Pho” on Frederick Dinning section of Frederick Post. They have pretty good comments.

Other dishes that I would recommend are Vietnamese Steaks, Dumpling, Grilled Beef in Grape Leave, Curry Shrimp, Black Bean Shrimp with ginger, Caramel Fish combine with Hot and Sour Soup, Lemon Grass Beef, Curry Chicken with Coconut….

Give them a try if you haven’t. I think you will like it