Hai Yen has been leading the Argyle Street charge lately, upstaging its neighbors with friendly, almost ecstatic service in a simple yet elegant dining area. The Vietnamese menu is extensive, covering poultry, beef, fish, noodles and rice. The Bo La Lot (marinated ground beef wrapped in a Hawaiian leaf then grilled) is a good introduction to cuisine, which the restaurant describes as an "infusion of French and Chinese." Eager to offer a full education, Hai Yen encourages you to join in the cooking fun yourself; order fondue, soup pot or grill and try your hand at Bo Tum Nhung Giam (that's beef and shrimp fondue in a vinegar broth).
Should your mood lean more toward the kick-back-and-be-cared-for end of the spectrum, you'll have no trouble doing some serious exploring and serious relaxing. Interesting items (of the more than 100 to choose from) include Canh Chua Chay, a fruity hot and sour tamarind soup with tofu, gluten vegetarian pork-flavored sausage, pineapple, tomato, okra and mushroom; Bun Nem Nuong, a marinated pork meatball served over vermicelli rice noodles; and Banh Beo Vi Da, miniature Vietnamese crepes topped with ground shrimp.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Jeremy Freeden