The Dish: Won't You Be My Neighbor

The options for exceptional Asian food – from Vietnamese to Korean – are ever expanding in our city’s food landscape. Next time you have a craving for pho or dim sum, you don’t have to take a hike to the Westbank. Meet your newest favorite neighbors.

You may have noticed a line bursting from the door of Magasin on Magazine Street, and it’s a telling sign about what meets you inside this spring roll mecca. A fresh, whitewashed renovation of an old corner store with hanging pendants and lots of banquette seating, Magasin is home to 10 types of spring rolls – from garlic tofu to Chinese sausage – not to mention decent pho, giant crab rangoon, banh mi on baguette and a bevy of refreshing iced teas. The steamed pork bun is a sight to behold as a knife slices into a green wonder and releases what appears to be thousands of years of ghosts unto the world, or really just steam. Com or “rice” plates are a great lunch option, featuring a light salad next to a heap of rice topped with meat, veggies and a luscious fried egg. The eggplant com is highly recommended, even from this carnivore, though I must also suggest the filet mignon pho, a decadent option not usually found in these parts. Dining single is highly recommended during the peak lunch and dinner hours, when lone barstools can usually be found. Surprisingly, service remains attentive and polite even while dodging random people lurking around for tables. There is some outside dining available, and behind the restaurant you can often spy some epic grilling taking place.

Tell somebody one of your favorite lunch spots is located in an old Taco Bell and eye rolling seems immanent, but the Korean (and Vietnamese) specialties at Little Korea on South Claiborne Avenue will defy most incredulous diners. Sure, you can tell it used to be a Taco Bell, but the flat screen television, nice paint job, decent tall boys and dining tables help out – a lot. Korean pop-music and the extremely polite staff make you forget about the heat, traffic and crazy construction happening just outside the door. While they do offer take-out, even dining in is a nice escape from the fast food motherload that occupies most of this thoroughfare. Specialties at Little Korea include short ribs and spicy barbecue chicken, but the Korean Grill – brisket, pork belly or short ribs prepared tableside – is available for parties of two or more and is accompanied by rice and steamed eggs. Most dishes, including the Korean Grill, come with three pickled sides, like kimchi, zucchini and bean sprouts. I was graciously offered fried sweet potatoes as lagniappe at a recent lunch, while dining on a Stone Pot Rice entrée, also known as Bi Bim Bop. A piping-hot bowl of rice is topped with veggies, a fried egg, a housemade chili paste and, in this case, sliced short ribs that make for an incredible midday feast. Little Korea also serves pho, a slew of panko-fried meats and seafood, and what appeared to be some extremely huge and mighty delicious summer rolls heading to a neighboring table, even though they weren’t listed on the menu.

Dim Sum and Then Some is a Sunday pop-up that takes place at least once a month in the Joint, located in the Bywater. Dim Sum and Then Some is such a renegade-style bunch even the time is rebellious, serving food from 6 p.m. until they basically run out. And they always run out of food. Why? Because the Karaage fried chicken thighs with scallion ranch and cabbage salad and the Bulgogi burger with spicy pickles, kimchi mayo and red onion, along with most of the menu, are $7 or less. Though the menu changes for each offering, be prepared for wildly exotic flavors like eggs boiled in tea and Shungiku, chrysanthemum greens with sesame – and pink drinks. This is innovative dining at its best.

The Banh Mai sandwich at the new Wednesday night exotic Asian pop-up, Koi, in Twist Lounge, features housemade pâté and pickled veggies, cilantro, mayo and red chile, but you can dress it up Southern by adding barbecue pulled pork.

Dim Sum and Then Some | Located in The Joint | 701 Mazant St. | (504) 949-3232

Koi | Located in Twist | 628 St. Charles Ave. | (504) 523-7600 |

Little Korea | 3301 S. Claiborne Ave. | (504) 821-5006

Magasin | 4201 Magazine St. | (504) 896-7611|

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