Mon-Sat, 5:30pm-midnight, Sun, closed
1 at Franklin St.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
This venue is closed.
The chef Drew Nieporent has chosen to be the new Nobu of Vietnamese food is Michael Bao Huynh, whose own clubby fusion restaurant down on the Lower East Side, Bao 111, has generated a good deal of heat among lounge lizards and gourmets alike. But as any lounge lizard will tell you, it’s easier to generate heat in a small space than a big one, and despite the presence of all those lacquered screens and Vietnamese goddesses, the room at Mai House feels big, impersonal, and strangely flat. There is a crowd-friendly bar area up front, where, on a recent frigid Saturday evening, revelers were huddled at a row of pro forma café tables, sipping the usual assortment of garishly themed cocktails with names like Buddha’s Eye, Tiger Tail, and Flyboy. Inside the industrial-size dining room, the tables and booths are arranged like a giant cafeteria, and the walls are colored in watery shades of coffee and tobacco brown. Huynh’s subtle blend of traditional and fusion Vietnamese specialties (sturdy crocks of the beefy northern noodle soup “Bun Bo Hue,” Berkshire pork belly sprinkled with coconut juice) can sometimes be overwhelmed by this large, washed-out space, but if you focus on the simple things, you probably won’t be disappointed.