6 at 77th St.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
63rd St. to 93rd St., East End Ave. to Fifth Ave.
A friendly mix of neighborhood regulars flocks to this fine-tuned eatery with reliable Vietnamese food. Unlike the barebones eat-and-run feel of so many other places, Vermicelli has velvet curtains, maroon cushions, and muted lighting that makes everyone look rested. You can take your time here. The curry, lemongrass, sesame, basil, peanuts, mint, sugar cane, and chilies characteristic of Vietnamese cooking make their appearance in traditional dishes like cháo tôm, sugarcane sticks encircled with grilled shrimp, and in marinated beef and chicken dishes. Count on its high-quality, tender meat, and delicate sauces that don't upstage the meat. On the menu are an array of Saigon rice noodle soups and the namesake thin rice noodles—a staple of Vietnamese cooking. Skip the starchy banh hoi, warm noodles paired with spring rolls, shrimp, and chicken skewers; it lacks a sauce to blend the starch and protein, and the noodles cool quickly. Tangy, ginger-infused Saigon chicken had plenty of kick, as did bo la nho, grape leaves stuffed with delicious barbequed ground beef and peanuts. If you just want to taste-test, you can easily construct a meal out of any of the two dozen appetizers.Recommended Dishes
Banh cuon (Vietnamese rice ravioli), $6.95; ga xao gung (chicken with ginger and scallions in a honey sauce), $13.95