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Restaurants & Bars 2

Mama Lan's soft shell crabs

mcchowhound | Sep 7, 200512:09 PM

We had a terrific meal at Mama Lan's, a small Vietnamese restaurant on Gilman Street in Berkeley (roughly opposite Lalime's.) We started with their signature dish, the Vietnamese crepe ($7.75.) This is the best version I have found - browned to a golden color and filled with a mixture of shrimp, chicken and mushroom rather than the usual mass of sprouts. (More than big enough for two.) We also had the braised quail ($8.75.) I found them a bit dry, but my husband, the real quail eater, loved them.

The real reason to go, though, is the soft shell crabs. At $18.95 they seem expensive for a neighborhood Vietnamese place, but given the skill and artistry in the preparation they are more than worth it. (Also, there is probably twice as much food as you'd find in the $19.95 lobster torpedo roll at Sea Salt.)

On a Tuesday night there were only six diners (counting us) between 6:30 and 7:30. My memory is that it can be crowded on weekends, though. Easy parking and great service. This is really a good restaurant.

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