First Look

First Look: LaVui Brings Vietnamese Foods to the Medical District

The Brother Tam at LaVui
The Brother Tam at LaVui Brian Reinhart
Dallas’ Medical District has a new Vietnamese takeaway spot that specializes in a total reinvention of the spring roll.

Housed in a former doughnut shop, LaVui Vietnamese Restaurant is the third business from Thanh Nguyen, who also operates the two Oishii sushi spots in Dallas. At LaVui, the focus is on Nguyen’s heritage; it’s named after his mother, Vui, and showcases dishes such as bánh mì and Vietnamese vermicelli bowls.

But tradition isn’t followed too strictly here. The big attention-getter is the way Nguyen has converted spring rolls into sushi rolls, by cutting them before serving then wrapping or topping them with seafood and eclectic garnishes. The result is a series of sushi-like bites, which have an appealing freshness and crunch from all the veggies contained within.

I tried two LaVui spring rolls during a quick lunchtime visit in its opening week. The Thanh Yellowtail roll ($16.50) had crabmeat inside the spring roll’s tightly-bound lettuce and avocado core, with yellowtail and ultrathin slices of lemon on top.

click to enlarge Inside the new LaVui - BRIAN REINHART
Inside the new LaVui
Brian Reinhart
The Brother Tam ($16.50) ditched lemon for a more traditional combination of salmon and tuna. Both tasted light and refreshing because of the veggies inside.

The result is really neither spring roll nor sushi, but if you adjust your expectations, it’s a nice late-summer treat.

The table next to me ordered a round of petite but shapely bánh mì, and I eyed them enviously, especially the sandwich with chicken stewed in coconut curry. A less traditional surprise: LaVui’s banh cuon bears little resemblance to the dish as it’s served at restaurants in Garland such as Banh Cuon Thang Long. Instead, it’s a set of six shrimp and pork dumplings showered with green onion slices ($8).

The bones of the former doughnut shop — which closed in August 2019 — are still present in the long display counter, where LaVui’s cooks now prepare spring rolls and carpaccios, and the tiny dine-in space. This building was designed for customers to pop in, grab food and leave. At least for now, there are just two tables and counter seating.

click to enlarge Salmon carpaccio - BRIAN REINHART
Salmon carpaccio
Brian Reinhart
When LaVui adds an online ordering system soon, takeout will probably be the best way to enjoy its menu of sandwiches, rice bowls, noodle bowls and spring rolls. For now, call ahead with your order, and expect the restaurant to be busy.

When I visited last week, I wasn’t sure what time I’d be able to arrive, so I simply showed up; waiting amid a flurry of activity (including a jolly gathering of wine industry professionals), I regretted that choice. Nobody was deliberately creating an unsafe environment, but I’d prefer not to help create one by mistake.

LaVui looks like it will be an especially great resource for employees at Medical District offices and hospitals. Being able to order good rice plates and sushi-spring rolls from your desk and pick them up a 5-minute drive away is quite the perk. This tiny new spot may just find a formula for long-term success in the middle of a pandemic.

LaVui Vietnamese Restaurant, 5321 Maple Ave. (Medical District). Open for takeout and limited dine-in 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday.
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Brian Reinhart has been the Dallas Observer's food critic since spring 2016. In addition, he writes baseball analysis for the Hardball Times and covers classical music for the Observer and MusicWeb International.
Contact: Brian Reinhart