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New Vietnamese Eatery Brings a Modern Twist to Classic Dishes in Astoria

By Jeanmarie Evelly | March 14, 2016 5:14pm | Updated on March 15, 2016 6:47pm
 District Mot opened last month at 37-15 Broadway offering modern twists on traditional dishes.
District Mot in Astoria
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ASTORIA — A Vietnamese restaurant and cocktail bar is offering Astoria diners a modern take on some of the cuisine's more traditional dishes.

Michael Lien, 33, opened District Mot at 37-15 Broadway with his father and chef, Lam Lien.

The pair previously ran a casual Vietnamese eatery in Manhattan, where the fast pace made it difficult to experiment and spread their culinary wings, they said.

"Here, we have the luxury of time to kind of prep and try new things," Michael Lien said. "We want to kind of bring a more innovative and natural take on Vietnamese."

That includes taking traditional dishes and adding their own twist, including the use of fresh, unconventional ingredients and quality cuts of meat, he said.

Their pho, for example, comes with options like wood-smoked brisket and free-range shredded chicken, while their vegetarian spring rolls are filled with tofu, vermicelli noodles and pickled mangos sourced from Lower East Side vendor The Pickle Guys.

One section of the menu offers "street snacks" — inspired by Vietnamese street food — and includes things like lamb wrapped in betel leaf, chicken wings served with taro fries and a grilled rice paper dish that's topped with egg, dried shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, peanuts and fried shallots.

"It's kind of modern and also traditional," Lien said, adding the traditional side of the dishes comes mostly from his dad, a chef who's cooked in the city's Vietnamese restaurants since the early 1970s.

"It's part of me, part of him," he said. "Some of these dishes, honestly, they bring me back to childhood."

That includes the "Shaken Steak and Eggs" entree, the restaurant's take on Bo Luc Lac, or shaking beef, that features sirloin steak and eggs with tomatoes and red onions in a pepper lime sauce. 

Entree prices range from $11 to $24 and from $6 to $13 for the street snacks.

District Mot is currently open for dinner and lunch — when they serve Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches — and the restaurant is planning to offer brunch in the future, Lien said.