It seems so natural. Our favorite people introduce us to our favorite places.
Like several years ago when our friend Joel Weinstein heard we'd never had the Vietnamese soup called phở. Instead of shaking his head in disbelief or scoffing at our ignorance, he immediately took it upon himself to shepherd us through the jungle of beef tendon and bible tripe on the menu and watched as our eyes widened at our first slurp of its deeply simmered perfection.
Ever since, when I've heard whispers of amazing noodles at little joints secreted away in some pocket of the city, I put on my best Indiana Jones and go searching for the holy grail of the perfect bowl of phở. So when an adventurous friend who loves good Vietnamese soup as much as I do wanted to meet for lunch, I suggested Ha & VL, a spot I'd read about on my brother's blog and that was touted by the Oregonian's Karen Brooks last September as "the find of the summer."
Located in the courtyard parking lot of Wing Ming Plaza, which has to be the best name for an Asian strip mall on the planet, on SE 82nd Ave., this tiny jewel reflects the cheery brightness of Ha Luu (top photo), the smiling face behind the counter and the genius behind the stunning concoctions on the menu.
There is also a broad selection of banh mi on the menu, the tasty Vietnamese sandwiches of stuffed, airy French baguettes, but the cognoscenti who frequent this spot are drawn by Ha's soups. At $7 a bowl, these are priced a little higher than at other phở outlets, but only one is on offer each day, with two on Sunday, reflecting her insistence that each one must be served as fresh as possible and never held over till the next day. The schedule is:
- Monday: Shrimpcake Noodle Soup
- Tuesday: Spicy Beef Noodle Soup
- Wednesday: Pepper Pork Ball Noodle Soup
- Thursday: Crabflake Noodle Soup
- Friday: Pnompenh Noodle Soup
- Saturday: Spicy Beef and Peppery Porkball Noodle Soup
- Sunday: Chicken Noodle Soup; Shredded Noodle Soup
Details: Ha & VL, 2738 SE 82nd Ave., #103. Phone 503-772-0103.