Pho 95

Pho, Vietnamese
$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

The yellow and white tiled walls can be considered clean-looking or antiseptic, depending on your viewpoint. A polished wooden clock in the sinuous shape of Vietnam is a nice touch. The servers, all of whom appear to be beautiful women, are helpful and friendly.

On any given day, about half the patrons are Vietnamese, conversing animatedly. If you enjoy a lively crowd, go for Saturday lunch. The service is still reasonably swift.

The hai vi rice in a clay pot is an excellent value at $9.95. It contains four kinds of seafood -- shrimp, crab, fish and squid -- attractively presented in a squat, homey-looking pot. The imperial rolls are refreshing and tasty, served with a complex peanut sauce. Two orders make a perfect light meal.

The seafood fondue is one of those cook-at-your-table affairs, where you get a selection of raw seafood and a pot of boiling broth. Although the waiter says the large size ($19) is enough for three people, if those three have good appetites, a double order is recommended.

No matter how familiar a dish sounds, don't write it off as the same-old, same-old. The sweet and sour shrimp, for example, is a far cry from what you might get at your local Chinese restaurant: A cluster of big, golden batter-fried shrimp sits on a bed of lettuce, accompanied by a side dish of bright red sweet-and-sour dipping sauce.
-- Joanne Leonard