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Friday, August 14, 2015

Perilla: Good News for Fans of Vietnamese in Lower Haight

Posted By on Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge Garlic noodles with five-spice chicken. - ERIC S. BURKETT
  • Eric S. Burkett
  • Garlic noodles with five-spice chicken.

The latest addition to the ever-shifting restaurant scene in the Lower Haight is Perilla, the small San Francisco chain of Vietnamese noodle joints. With two other locations on Irving and Mission streets, Perilla brings its signature garlic noodles to the former site of Tandoor on Haight (née Naan & Chutney before the name change a few years later). Prior to that, and roughly a million years ago, 525 Haight was an outpost for another local chain, Hahn's Hibachi.

As I picked up a menu, the man behind the counter could see I was clearly a newbie and explained how to order from their potential combinations of noodles and meats. Garlic noodles and vermicelli can be paired up with seven meat and vegetable choices, to say nothing of rice and soup options, along with banh mi, salads, and various imperial and fresh rolls.

“We're known for our garlic noodles and five-spice chicken,” he said. That settled that: I followed his suggestion, and ordered a Thai iced tea as well, resisting my usual urge to suck it down the minute the glass was placed before me.

I found a place to sit near the window and about five minutes later, my lunch appeared. A generous pile of noodles, along with plenty of chicken, a sweet dipping sauce, and – a pleasant contrast – steamed, chilled broccoli florets. The noodles were toothsome and redolent with butter and garlic, and the chicken – oh, that chicken. Dark meat roasted with five-spice powder resulting in a beautifully browned, crispy, crackly skin that immediately brought to mind roasted suckling pig. I dunked my first bite into the dipping sauce and enjoyed the contrasts between the tender, flavorful meat, the crunchy skin, and the light, sweet sauce.

The problem with Vietnamese food in San Francisco, of course, is that there isn't enough of it, and Perilla's beachhead in the Lower Haight is most welcome, considering the next nearest Vietnamese places are Jasmine Garden on 14th and Church, and Dinosaurs at 16th and Market. Both are worthy stops in themselves and all three have their specialties. Perilla rounds out the selection nicely.

My lunch, including the beverage, cost $15.23. Good prices – for San Francisco, at least – and generous servings make the already tasty food a solid bargain. Perilla isn't much for atmosphere – it has none – so this is hardly the place for a romantic dinner but, for a good neighborhood option at a reasonable price, it's a great choice.

Perilla, 525 Haight Street, 415-872-6718.

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Eric S. Burkett


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