Sometimes you have a day that just feels wonderful from start to finish. You wake up and notice your hair is looking particularly good, and then, on your way to work, you realize you’ve finally finished the punch card from the expensive coffee place down the street. You wrap up a big project and your boss says you can take it easy and leave a little early. You don’t hit any traffic as you take to the open road with your favorite song on the radio, and no one even sees your awkward car dance moves as you drive off towards home.
A meal at Reckless Noodle House, a Vietnamese fusion spot in the Central District, is just like this: thoroughly enjoyable, from the homemade ginger beer mules you’ll drink at the beginning to the sticky salted duck fat caramels you’ll eat on your way out.
The menu here is excellent pretty much across the board. The starters - like caramelized pork belly fresh rolls, spicy papaya salad, and crispy duck rolls wrapped in lettuce leaves - are fantastic and satisfying without being too heavy (they also go really well with the aforementioned homemade ginger beer cocktails). But the entrees are even better. The fried rice with turmeric, coconut, chili jam, basil, and cubes of pastrami, for instance, is one of those things you never knew you needed in your life until it showed up. Then there’s the wheat noodle dish with braised beef cheek, sichuan chili oil, and sour mustard greens - it’s so tasty that you may find yourself wanting to put physical distance between yourself and anyone who tries to steal a bite. There are occasional small missteps, like a five-spiced duck confit that’s on the dry side, but considering the overall quality of the food, these are easy to forget.
The space is small and dark-ish, with hanging lanterns, decorative empty coffee bean sacks, and a whole wall covered in fish jawbones. It would be great for a small group dinner, or even a birthday, although given the size of the space, you might need to have multiple staggered meals to get all your friends involved (we’re assuming you have a lot).
After is all said and done, even your wonderful, good-hair-and-free-coffee-filled day has to come to an end. But luckily for all of us, you can have an awesome plate of food at Reckless Noodle House any time you want. Preferably several, actually.
The rice paper is a little gummy, and there are a lot of noodles in this roll - so there’s a solid chance it will fall apart all over you and the table. But the caramelized pork belly has such great flavor that you won’t care. The spicy fish sauce is very good, too.
A mandatory starter for the table, alongside the fresh roll. The crispy rolls here are filled with scrambled egg, cabbage, wood ear mushroom, carrot, bamboo, and roasted duck. They come with lettuce leaves, fresh scallions, and a sambal hoisin dip. The idea is to wrap the lettuce and scallions around the roll, then dunk in the hoisin. Very, very good.
For a lighter appetizer, the papaya salad with tomato, bird’s eye chili, lime, dried shrimp, peanuts, and fish sauce is a great choice - as long as you can handle a lot of spice.
Hot coconut curry broth with vermicelli noodles, yukon gold potatoes, eggplant, green beans, carrots, scallions, and cilantro. You can order it with shrimp, beef, or tofu - vegetarians, this is your order. You’re going to be happy.
A tasty piece of fish with a turmeric glaze, topped with dill, fennel, lemongrass, fresh herbs, and galangal - all over a bed of thin noodles. Take full advantage of the bowl of flavorful toasted chili lime fish sauce that comes on the side.
This is the best thing on the menu. It’s a hunk of tender, perfectly seasoned braised beef cheek on top of fresh wheat noodles in a sichuan sauce. While it may sound like you’re asking for a mouth fire when you order this, the spice is balanced, the sauce-coated noodles are addictive, and you may be tempted to come back tomorrow and eat it again. We were.
Coconut-turmeric fried rice topped with basil, chili jam, fresh cucumber, an egg, and the real star - cubed pastrami. It’s slightly spicy, and if you’re not in the mood to go out, it would also be a very good thing to eat in your pajamas on the couch. Wherever you are, it’s a must-order.
While there are better entrees on the menu, the slow-cooked duck confit is still a very good option. It comes with turmeric coconut rice, baby bok choy, and braised shiitake mushrooms. The meat is ever so slightly dry, but the brown sauce that comes with it fixes everything, especially when it seeps into the rice.
You’re going to want at least one of these after your meal. They’re studded with salt flakes and are that ideal blend of sticky, soft, and chewy.