The story goes that Hung Lam, aka “Soup Junkie,” tried bowls and bowls of noodle soup in San Francisco but couldn’t find one that could live up to the taste of his mom’s. So now he pops up with a weekly pop up restaurant at Vinyl Wine Bar to show what a good bowl of soup noodles is all about.
Now that’s taking things into your own hands to the extreme.
I’m a big fan of Vietnamese soup noodles, and even though I haven’t necessarily found the ultimate bowl that compares to what I had in Saigon, I still get some decent bowls that can hit the spot. Bun Rieu is an especially unique noodle soup that’s completely different from the ubiquitous pho, having different noodles, different broth, and different toppings.
The bun rieu is known for its tomato-based broth and crab-egg topping. Last Friday night, I tried Soup Junkie’s version (he was only offering pho and bun rieu that night; on other nights he might also sell ramen).
Finding bun rieu at Vinyl in the Divisadero corridor of the Western Addition (or maybe the area is now considered NOPA) seems a bit jarring when surrounded by the jazzy images and vinyl records hanging in what is more like a wine bar/coffee shop.
Along with wine, Vinyl offers small bar bites, and I tried a pear salad that was fresh with classic flavors of the season. But the main focus of the night was the bun rieu, which came out beautifully orange topped with a fresh crab omelette and curly water spinach (which I find beautiful and rarely see being used in Vietnamese restaurants here).
While the crab omelette and pork meatballs were good, I found the star of the bun rieu was definitely the soup, clean and fresh but packed with flavor, a sure sign of broth that had been lovingly cooked for hours.
Soup Junkie’s bun rieu, which he makes with his mom doing much of the directing, does distinguish itself as a high-quality bowl of soup. It should be considering he charges $11 a pop. His weekly pop up at Vinyl is a bit out of the way for me to go regularly, but it’s definitely a safe bet for people in the neighborhood who doesn’t want to head over to Clement.
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