Ha VL: 2738 SE 82nd Ave., Suite 102, 772-0103. Breakfast and lunch Wednesday-Monday. Rose VL: 6424 SE Powell Blvd., 206-4344. Dinner Monday-Saturday.
For years, you could never get a bowl of Christina Luu and William Vuong's amazing Vietnamese soup at 82nd Avenue's Ha VL after noon—and if it wasn't gone by 11 am on a Saturday, you were lucky. But since last summer, everything has changed for the better. Now, every day but Sunday at their rose-walled soup shop Rose VL—a sparse, brightly lit space with 1980s cityscape paintings on the walls—$9.50 will get you a choice between two different bowls of plush heaven in liquid form. A subtle tom yum on Monday puts the usual amped-up galangal bomb to shame, while a light Wednesday chicken noodle with bamboo shoots is rich with marrow and undercut by the slightest hint of earthy herb and ginger. Nothing is oversweetened, overspiced or oversalted. The fish cake's a bit wharfy for my taste, it's true. But that's the best thing about the VLs: The Western palate isn't even a consideration.