BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT - 2005
By now we're all familiar with the fabulous Eat Street triad, Quang Restaurant, Pho Tau Bay, and Jasmine Deli. We've been singing their well-deserved praises for going on 10 years. However, this year the bar has been raised. Literally. With a full bar and high-art decor, Mai Village is the clear champion in '05. "Oh, great," you're probably thinking, "here goes City Pages voting for booze over broth, beauty over bun." Not true. Booze and beauty are just the icing on the cake, and it's a damn fine cake. Here you'll find the standards, including fabulous pho (noodle soup with various additions) and brilliant bun (noodle salads with herbs and grilled goodness) with the $7 price tag you've come to expect at Vietnamese restaurants. What's different--and dare we say better--here are the more ambitious dishes,like the steamed walleye: a whole fish served family style in a sweetened ginger-soy sauce ($21.95). For a true dining/entertainment extravaganza we recommend the seven-course beef feast: For a mere $16.95 per person you get two types of meatballs, two tabletop cooking opportunities, grilled beef grape-leaf rolls, beef salad, and a lemony beef congee--although not in that order. Paired with a bottle (or two) of wine and a few of your close friends, you've got a perfect night on the town. Lovely, truly lovely.