Sherman's Food Adventures: District Eleven

District Eleven

Normally, whenever we have "fusion" cuisine, it can be quite the turnoff to many people.  However, I feel that it is both unfair and close-minded to not give new things a chance.  Such is the case at the newish District Eleven on Main Street.  If this location seems familiar, think former Rekados, Beefy Beef and Chi House Chi Pot.  Now, not all the food at District Eleven is fusion, in fact, much of it is traditional Vietnamese (and some are variations of Japanese dishes).  So there is a little of something for everyone in a modern space that is open late.

We didn't go late, in fact we went to their Happy Hour that lasts until 7:00pm (most people come here much later...).  One of the best dishes I tried was also seemingly the simplest in the Accordion Cucumber Salad featuring baby cucumber, pickled red beets, spicy house dressing, crispy shallots and crispy vermicelli.  Beyond the fresh crunchiness of the cukes, the flavours really popped.  Plenty of tanginess and kick that made this appetizing.  The pickled beets only added extra crunch and acidity.

Onto something traditional, we had their Bun Bo Hue.  This was loaded with meats, yet it was missing the pork blood and pork knuckle.  I don't hold this against them because there are rarely any places that include it (probably not popular ingredients with most people).  This was plenty spicy, aromatic and flavourful, but I would've liked to see some fermented seafoodiness.  Meats were generally tender except for a few pieces of undercooked tendon.

Another classic Vietnamese dish we tried was the Bo Luc Lac served with baguette (you can choose rice as well).  Since they used AAA tenderloin, the beef was super moist and tender.  It also helped that they cooked it just enough that the centre was still medium-rare.  Good caramelization from the wok fry ensured that there was some smokiness and sweetness to go with the savoury elements.

One of the Japanese-inspired dishes at District Eleven was the Aburi Crispy Rice with half sashimi grade salmon and half imitation crab meat.  I found the deep fried rice patties to be crunchy, yet not hard.  On top, I much preferred the salmon as it as moist and nicely torched.  It was aromatic due to the scallion oil on top.  As for the imitation crab, I found it too saucy, yet it did taste good with chili mayo.

Staying with the Japanese-type items, we tried the Creamchi Udon with udon, garlic, shallots, cream, house-made kimchi, herb butter, tobiko, mussels, tobiko, shiso and seaweed.  This was sorta like a mentaiko udon but not.  It was much more flavour-forward rather than being subtle.  There was more saltiness and of course, spice from the kimchi.  This was pretty rich, but tasty at the same time.  You can choose to have a bowl of rice to soak up the rest of the sauce at the end if you wish.

Lastly, we ordered the Lemongrass Chili Miso Black Cod with pickles, nori, crispy sushi rice and scallion oil.  Other than the cuke salad, this was my other favourite dish as the sablefish was prepared perfectly being buttery and flaky while sporting a nice sear.  Lots of flavour here including the scallion oil and the spicy fermented flavours of the chili miso.  Loved that it was reasonably-priced at $18.00 as well.  In fact, the prices are all fair considering the portion sizes and overall tastiness of the dishes.  This is worth a visit and I will be returning to try more items.

The Good:
- Eclectic mix of dishes that somehow works
- Reasonable pricing
- Great place for late night eats that doesn't involve wontons nor Denny's

The Bad:
- Not the most spacious parking lot
- Could use a few more items on the menu


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