December 1, 2003 | Ask Gael
What I need right now is beautiful soup.

        Kill the chill at Bao Noodles with a steamy bowl of soothing Vietnamese pho (pronounce it fuh)—noodles with beef and oxtail in a thrillingly complex broth, or equally haunting Da-Nang–style crab soup. Alas, this seedling of chef-architect Michael Huynh’s frenetically hot Bao 111 is a mixed blessing—a charming crew, but no reservations and cash only. (You’ll need that soup if you’re stalled on the sidewalk.) Still, two $7 bowls make a fabulous warm-up for our hungry four, followed by grilled short ribs wrapped around lemongrass, wonderfully smoky eggplant-and-shrimp salad, and the special, clams in a heady tamarind sauce. Sip Tiger beer. Get some sticky rice for your stir-fried squid with lemongrass or salt-and-pepper deep-fried calamari. A side of luscious pork belly is a must. Follow with spicy beef stew (better than the listless pork chop) and crisp snapper (if you like your fish well done). Share warm tapioca pudding or pandanus-leaf coconut-milk panna cotta. And there’s your $30 dinner, cheap and delicious.

391 Second Avenue, near 23rd Street 212 725 7770

Patina Restaurant Group