Tu Lan Lunch

Chris and I went to Tu Lan for lunch. They seem to have raised their eyes beyond the stoves since my last visit, as my table was not sticky…although the general ambiance, if I dare use such a refined word in reference to Tu Lan, remains unchanged. Chris had the Pho. I had the penultimate soup which was a “spicy beef with noodle” whose Vietnamese name I forget. We both tasted each other’s, and both had a slight preference for the Pho, but both soups were very good…and enormous. We split an order of Imperial Rolls (2), which meant way too much food, but we both wanted something besides soup. Then too, I have to say that theirs, while not so refined and yes, a bit greasy, tasted nearly as good as the Slanted Door’s…or at least close…OK, at least in the same ballpark.

Speaking of the Slanted Door, a conversation with the waiter there last Tuesday occasioned a forty-eight-hour-delayed Treppenwitz. I had asked him the status of the expansion of the original location on Valencia, and he said that they had only recently broken ground but that he had seen the plans and it was going to be spectacular. He said they’re now thinking about retaining the beautiful Embarcadero location as the upscale end and serving a bit more economical menu on Valencia. What I should have remarked is, “Oh, you mean a clean Tu Lan?”

At the end of the meal I suggested to Chris that we order iced coffee, never having had it at Tu Lan but somehow knowing that the Vietnamese make a drink almost identical to Thai Iced Coffee. I’m so glad I did because it just blew us away. In the first place, when I asked the waiter if they had iced coffee with sweet milk in it, he asked, “Iced coffee?” When I responded, “Yes, iced coffee with sweet milk in it like the Thais do,” he declared firmly, “Iced coffee!” and walked away. Language skills are not a hiring criterion at Tu Lan.

He returned shortly carrying two tall glasses full of shaved ice with spoons standing in them. A couple of minutes later he arrived bearing a pair of assemblies consisting of a short glass with about 3/4″ of a white substance at the bottom. Atop this glass was a stainless steel cylinder about 2″ in diameter and 2″ high merged with a disc about 4″ in diameter beneath it. The cylinder was filled to the brim with a mixture of finely ground coffee and steaming water, and black droplets were falling from the center of the disc into the glass below. After five minutes or so, the water had all drained through, so we removed the brewing contraption, stirred the black and white layers in the glass together, and poured the mixture over the shaved ice. It was divine, the best Thai Iced Coffee I ever drank.

But there is more than food in my life. Chris has mentioned to me that our long dialogues about second person pronouns during his previous visits have made him acutely conscious of current German usage, and he now sometimes finds himself actively thinking about what had previously been an automatic, unconscious selection of the correct pronoun.

How easily we corrupt the young.

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