Monday, May 01, 2006

Hoi An: three sheets of rice paper away from a four-star restaurant

Despite its bleak website, Hoi An, on West Broadway, is cheery and fantastic. They have the beef-rice paper-lettuce-herbs dish that, while simple, is so hard to come by in NYC Vietnamese restaurants, and serve it with an amazing sauce that's apparently just salt, pepper, and lime juice. In other words, you don't have to spend dinner wondering what, exactly, gives "fish sauce" its name and flavor.

Hoi An's gimmick is that it's "Vietnamese cooking in a Japanese kitchen," but the food does not seem to be in any way Japanese. Another gimmick, actually, is presenting massive menus that do not fold, followed by a dessert menu so large that the waitress carries it over to the table but doesn't even try to put it down, just presents it as if giving a lecture. When not being presented, the dessert menu is hung up on the non-sushi-bar sushi bar. I do not know what dessert at Hoi An is all about, but I can't imagine it could hold its own given the new Bouley Bakery across the street.

Hoi An's food itself is quite tasty, and my only complaint was that they skimp on the rice paper. Rice paper is just about the cheapest food known to man, so it was odd how little of it came with the dish. A request for additional rice paper ought to bring about more than two quarter-sheet pieces of the stuff. But the dishes, especially for Tribeca's main drag, couldn't really be less expensive, so I will just know to bring my own rice paper when I return. Or, more realistically, do what I did last night, which is head across the street to Petite Abeille for a side order of "frites de liberte." And so, my final thoughts on the matter:

Hoi An ***/****
Food: ****/****
Best dishes: those not dependent on rice paper
Price: $$/$$$$$
Location: convenient to many subways; not ideal if you are prone to neurotic flashbacks upon returning that close to Stuyvesant

And, on that note, a shout-out to the many "random Stuy people" who allegedly read this blog.

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