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The food-truck invasion has made ethnic street food easier than ever to come by downtown, but it’s still nice to have a place like La Lot Restaurant & Bar where you can settle into a booth and embark on a culinary journey for an hour.

La Lot is named after a wild betel leaf, the thick kelly-green foliage widely used in the traditional Vietnamese cuisine that is served up plentifully here with especially tasty fish sauces.

The service is often lightning-fast at lunch, when dishes are typically $1.50 cheaper than at dinner. But the line can stretch out the door, so your best bet is to arrive before or after the crush.

The menu: The extensive lunch menu includes appetizers such as fried Viet crispy wings tossed with fish sauce and beef tenderloin wrapped in betel leaves (both $8.50). Salad offerings include papaya with surprisingly tender beef jerky, and green mango with choice of protein (both $9.50).

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Some other dishes: clay pot specialties of catfish, pork or prawns caramelized in coconut juice and fish sauce ($12-$14), tofu, beef, chicken and shrimp pho ($8.50-$12), grilled-pork sauce bowl ($8.50), a variety of fresh ready-made rolls ($6-$8.50), as well as rolls you make yourself from rice paper, fresh greens, vermicelli, shallots, scallions and sauces.

The dinner menu offers a dozen “chef favorites,” including braised short ribs ($16), grilled duck breast ($13) and creamy yam soup with prawns ($10).

What to write home about: The five-spice crispy chicken bowl ($8.50) and the spicy lemon grass beef over vermicelli ($10.50) never disappoint.

What to skip: The bland salmon rolls.

The setting: A bright, clean modern space with ample table and booth seating. Food service also available in the bar area. A long wall of windows makes for good people watching.

Summing up: An order of salmon rolls ($8.50), papaya salad with beef jerky, grilled tofu ($8.50), five-spice crispy chicken bowl, and fresh limeade ($4) came to $42.71.

Susan Kelleher:

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