The Wheel Deal

When it comes to serving great Vietnamese cuisine, Red Cyclo puts the pedal to the metal

Customers familiar with Thai food shouldn't expect searing curries and pepper-laden salads that make the tongue feel like a sidewalk under the Florida sun. But they can get a sort of zest at Red Cyclo with the hot lemongrass chicken. Marinated in zesty chili peppers and sautéed with diced lemongrass and onions, the chicken retained its juiciness and character, standing up to the mildly spicy chilies with equanimity.

Likewise diners should not expect the fried dough so many other Asian eateries offer for dessert (though fried bananas do for a pinch of sweetened starch). A better choice, if one has room, is the dessert drink comprising lotus seeds, longans, and Asian plums, which offers a smoothie blend of nutty, sweet, and tart.

Given the popularity of the craft products Nguyen displays on the walls and around the restaurant, you can't count on the décor -- potted palms, embroidery portraits, and shelves of toy models made from Pepsi and Coke cans -- being the same from one visit to the next. But you can bet that the charm and personality of the chef-host will help Red Cyclo continue to attract new business while it keeps the old. After all, one is silver, the other gold. And taking into account the quality of the superb Vietnamese fare and the supremely reasonable prices, I can only hope that the restaurant, despite the origins of its name, is going to sit still long enough to go platinum.

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