It’s been quick but electrifying evolution for Starry Kitchen, the husband and wife team of Nguyen and Thi Tran. In only 11 months, they’ve transitioned from dispensing $5 dinners at their underground kitchen in North Hollywood to feeding hordes of bankers and businesspeople at their glass-fronted California Plaza restaurant. The righteous renegades showcase four proteins per day on their pan-Asian menu, all available as a wrap, sandwich, salad or plate. Choose a side, grab a seat and you’re good to go. Chef Thi has a 50-dish repertoire, and every week, she prepares a limited edition “bye-bye” dish, so try not to get too attached.
I recently suffered from separation anxiety after trying their BBQ Pork Banh Mi ($7.50), which was an homage to one of the couple’s favorite Vietnamese restaurants: Brodard. Juicy slabs of ground pork ran the length of the baguette, which had plenty of give. They also included traditional banh mi accompaniments like crunchy julienne of pickled carrot and daikon, spears of cucumber and sprigs of cilantro. A nice twist was the central piping of crispy fried wonton, which added a nice crunch and was a play on the filling of Brodard’s spring rolls. Our only mistake was forgetting to request jalapeno, which would have added yet another dimension to the sandwich’s flavor profile. After the fact, Nguyen Tran pointed out a bin of fresh escabeche that was inspired by his Mexican-American kitchen staff, which would have definitely added a complementary kick. He also said that Thi has previously substituted pork belly and shoulder meat for the ground pork. Considering the results of her “meatballs,” I’d gladly trust in the alternate cuts.
The sign of a great sandwich is that I would have gladly ordered another one the following week. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option, since Thi 86’d the BBQ pork. Let’s hope that she soon returns Vitamin P to its rightful place in Starry Kitchen’s rotation.
With our banh mi, we received a choice of side, and selected the Japanese style garlic noodles, with springy spaghetti-like noodles tossed with diced garlic and topped with scallion shavings. Other top banh mi might cost less, but none are as substantial, none of them come with a side, and they all require a longer drive. Downtowners are lucky to have Starry Kitchen, and occasionally, diners are even lucky enough to find Vitamin P.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.