Best Vietnamese - 2007
It's almost the season to think about squeezing into that bathing suit again you know, the one you bought three years ago, telling yourself you could drop five pounds no sweat. The ongoing existential conundrum is this: Can one continue to behave like a disgusting glutton and simultaneously keep one's figure whittled down to the proportions of Mary Kate? The Vietnamese have solved this dilemma by refining, over thousands of years and with a little help from their skinny French occupiers, a cuisine to keep the ladies svelte under those body-hugging silk dresses and the Duong family at Cay Da (which means banyan tree) will cheerfully share the secret. Steaming bowls of hot-and-sour shrimp soup ($3.95), laced with mushrooms, scallion, and chopped tomatoes, have all the caloric wallop of sucking on an herb-infused cloud. A fresh, whole fried snapper ($20.95) drizzled with ginger sauce is meant to be eaten one prissily delicate bite at a time (chew slowly; put down your fork between bites!). Seafood curry ($16.95) is as light as an ocean breeze, and even the special sizzling house crepe ($14.95) wraps the thinnest of rice pancakes around a fresh and unfussy filling of juicy shrimp, dusky bean sprouts, and slippery mushrooms. You could eat each of the 20-plus homemade specialties on this menu even the sliced duck breast one at a time with no break between courses and still find yourself shedding pounds practically in your sleep. And at these prices, you'll save enough dough to buy the matching coverup for that suit. Not that you'll need it.