Chef Tin Vuong, business partner Jed Sanford and BlackHouse Hospitality Management recently brought their guns and butterfly decor from Manhattan Beach to downtown with the second branch of Little Sister. Vuong grew up in the San Gabriel Valley and presents modern Vietnamese cooking with flavors that pull no punches. I sat at the L-shaped bar, across from Vuong, who spot checked dishes and prepared items from a menu section devoted to rice paper. That category includes cha gio, Autumn rolls with sweet potato and Chinese sausage, and my personal favorite, Pho Banh Cuon ($8).
This deconstructed pho features slippery rice paper wrappers filled with beef brisket and crunchy tendon, a thatch of aromatic herbs, lettuce and pickled onions. Up top, I found a generous helping of punchy fried garlic, shaved red chilies, and cilantro. The idea is to dip the savory rolls in nuoc cham – chile-spiked fish sauce – to amp up flavor and umami factors. I’m not sure that this dish will ever be quite so satisfying as a steaming bowl of pho, but Vuong did a great job of capturing the core flavors.