by Get Real on February 25, 2008
When An’s Lemongrass Grille opened in the Highlands this winter, it generated a great deal of excitement among residents on top of the latest restaurant opening in their ever-changing neighborhood.
What those who celebrated this no-nonsense Vietnamese eatery my not have known, however, is that the An’s on West 32nd Avenue opened at the request of fans of the original An’s, which has been quietly tucked into the middle of a busy downtown block for more than five years…
While its Highland newborn shows promise, the An’s on California is a welcome reminder of the virtues of a restaurant that has aged gracefully.
At lunchtime, the sun-drenched industrial space and affordable Vietnamese fare at An’s Downtown offer an inviting retreat from cubicle row. Head to the back, where you can order from a refreshingly selective menu board that was inspired by the fresh vegetables and spices of the owner’s southern Vietnamese childhood.
While the spring rolls ($2.95) can be even gummier than rice noodles should be, they are filled with surprisingly big pieces of tender shrimp and burst with fresh mint flavor. Though not always perfectly crispy on the outside, the butter-studded hoisin-garlic glaze is enough to make An’s chicken wings ($4.15) addictive.
For the main event, go for the beef pho ($5.95). Perhaps the most authentic offering on the menu, supremely tender chunks of beef and long rice noodles swim in a complex clove-flavored broth.
An’s pho comes with all the necessary accoutrements: a purple-stemmed snip of basil, fresh bean sprouts, Sriracha sauce and other condiments, any or all of which can be mixed in to taste.
An’s Highland offers the same menu, but the Vietnamese egg rolls ($3.25) here were a touch too greasy, the gelatinous crabmeat and asparagus soup ($2.35 to $3.10) more luke than warm and the service distracted.
That said, if wisdom comes with age, this outpost and a third that is scheduled to open in Stapleton in March will soon be great evening or weekend options for those friends who didn’t have time to break away at lunch time.
Downtown: 1617-B California St., 720-889-0383; 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, closed Saturday-Sunday.
Highlands: 2643 W. 32nd Ave., 303-433-4289, 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday
Stapleton (opening in March): 2373 Central Park Blvd. (no phone yet)
Front burner. Most dishes come in meat-lovers or vegetarian versions and many are offered in two different sizes — Asian Portion (small) and Texan Portion (large).
Back burner. Be sure to specify which size you want or you may end up with the more expensive version.
– Stacey Brugeman