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It's not like throwing tofu in stir-fries or over noodles is exactly ground-breaking in these parts. Asian restaurants abound in soy offerings, and one of the tastiest tofu dishes in town comes from the long-standing Anh Hong, at the crossroads of Mills Avenue and Colonial Drive. (Parking is around back, so don't be thrown off by the busy intersection.) Just say, "No. 146," to jump into "fried tofu stir fried with lemongrass and chili" ($7.95). The peppery batter flavors up the curd and makes for a satisfying bite once you spear a chunk amidst the lemongrass, red chilis, celery, onions and snow peas, all mixed in a sesame-oil-tinged sauce.

The thing that'll take the longest is making your way through the eight-panel takeout menu, which offers the subheadings "squid" and "family dishes." Good news for vegetarians: There are 21 choices under "vegetables" ($7.95-$9.95) making use of noodles, vegetables, rice cakes, rice crepes and eggs.

Subs ($2.50-$5.50) are another cheap staple, with crisp cucumbers, carrots and cilantro added to Vietnamese deli-style meats (bologna and ham), beef stew, grilled pork, beef, chicken or tofu loaded on "French sub" bread. My recent snacking on a bologna sub found the meat to be a bit of a mystery but OK when crunched along with the greenery and the fresh roll.

Smoothies ($3) are another sure bet at Anh Hong. Mango, strawberry and banana are familiar flavors, along with the more exotic jackfruit, sour sop, sapota and durian (the super-stinky tropical fruit). Experiment if you feel daring, but some fruits, like durian, are an acquired (blech) taste. Add an order of summer rolls (two for $2.50) for a fast takeout lunch.

The real mystery is what's in the refrigerator case. Neon-colorful cups of gelatins mixed with unrecognizable fruits mingle with strange plastic-wrapped sandwiches and rice blobs; the baffling descriptions on the labels render the contents lost in translation – sample if you dare.

"Smell my fingers," my dining comrade commanded after decapitating a freshly boiled crawfish, thrusting her cayenne-tinged digits into my face. The scent of garlic, spices and the sea made me want to lap that hand like a thirsty mutt, thumb to pinky and everywhere in between. But that wouldn't have been appropriate, given my unstained hands were longing to be reddened and licked themselves. And that we were dining in public.

If thoughts of Louisiana crawfish lead to thoughts of sea life caked in crude oil, rest assured these crawfish are farm-raised. The only thing crude is the manner in which the little buggers are devoured – twist off the head and suck the juice, then pinch the tail and pull the meat. A pretty mess, no doubt, and we devoured a pound ($6.99) of the medium-sized crustaceans while going through about a thousand paper napkins. (Where are the Wet-Naps?) Our seasoning choice – "sha bang" – amounted to a blend of lemon pepper, garlic butter and Cajun spices. Even at "medium" heat it was enough to set the nose of another of my dining companions to trickling, requiring strategic placement of the bone bucket. On the side, corn on the cob ($1.50) is mandatory – sweet and swimming in a pool of seasoned (read: spicy) butter. Pass on the subpar potato salad ($1.50) and coleslaw ($1.50) and go for the Hershey-Kiss-shaped hush puppies ($1.50) – the bite-sized fritters were gone before we even knew it.

A bowl of gumbo ($3.95), we thought, would offer a proper pre-crawdad indulgence. Purporting to be based on a "spicy roux," the soup was disappointingly thin and lacked the dark reddish-brown hue that typifies the Cajun stew. The restaurant is run by a pleasant Vietnamese family who moved to Orlando from New Orleans, and I couldn't help but think that the soup's consistency was more like pho and less like gumbo. To its credit, the assemblage did include a heap of sausage, shrimp, chicken and okra.

I would've liked to have seen a Vietnamese po'boy (aka a banh mi) as part of their sandwich offerings, but we were nonetheless pleased with the catfish po'boy ($5.95), even if the bread wasn't true crispy Louisiana-style French bread. (Note: If you're jonesing for a muffuletta, you won't find it here.) No surprise seeing basa ($7.95), a mild-flavored Vietnamese river fish, on the menu. It's given a cornmeal treatment here, then battered and fried, resulting in the desired texture combo – flaky flesh and crispy skin. As a bonus, we got three fillets instead of the advertised two. For dessert, we got none of the advertised three – cheesecake ($2.75), pecan pie ($2.75) or fried banana ($2.75) – as they were all out, so we opted to end with some wonderfully potent Cafe du Monde coffee ($1.75) though, admittedly, we missed the beignets. The cuppa joe stoked our inner chatterbox and we found ourselves settling in and comfortably yapping away in this small, fan-blown space. The eatery comprises all the elements of a coastal dive minus the coast, and like the aroma wafting from my companion's fingers, we interminably lingered.

For the last 10 years, I have been conducting a secret experiment: When traveling to other cities, I seek out Vietnamese restaurants to compare with the ones in Orlando. Unwittingly, restaurants in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York and Washington, D.C., have been put to the test, and not one of those exalted cities had anything – be it summer rolls, pho or syrupy-sweet coffee – as good as the eateries back home. And now there's a new contender in the Vietnamese paradise on that wonderful stretch of Colonial Drive near Mills Avenue: Lac-Viêt.

It was hard not to be a bit skeptical about Lac-Viêt, because I wasn't fond of Lemongrass Bistro, the last establishment to occupy the space that for years housed La Normandie. When we walked up to the door just after dusk and crossed under a welcoming gate with a cheerful entrance, I saw that the new occupants have more design sense than any of the previous ones.

The dining room has been opened up and made brighter, and it smelled like fresh bamboo and steeping lemongrass. I breathed a sigh of relief. The whole room felt altogether more pleasant than it ever had in the past. With sleek wooden chairs, a traditional Vietnamese instrument motif and depictions of Vietnamese scenery adorning the walls, a sense of style has taken the place of what is usually referred to as "character."

The food was the true test, and it passed with gold stars. We started with the old standby, garden rolls ($2.50), which were fresh and flavorful with plenty of sweet shrimp, basil and a sprinkling of fried shallot. The sweet potato shrimp cakes ($4) – a dish that was new to me – sounded alluring, so we tried those too. Starchy shreds of sweet potato mingled in a tasty batter and married well with fish sauce for dipping. Lotus salad ($9.95), a medley of tender white lotus shoots, fresh herbs and marinated pork with a garnish of fanned shrimp also was delicious. My favorite dish was the seasoned rare beef with tamarind juice ($8.95), served with crunchy shrimp chips and fresh cilantro. This creation was so moving that I am petitioning the city to start a Seasoned Rare Beef With Tamarind Juice Day.

The pho ($6.95) was outstanding. The one I chose had eye of round, brisket and soft tendon in an exotic, hearty beef broth with tantalizing seasonings – delicate cinnamon, a spark of star anise, the gentle heat of ginger, refreshing mint – toned down and made almost creamy by a large helping of cool rice noodles. The special vermicelli ($9.95) came with a heaping amount of grilled pork, spring rolls, shrimp paste and grilled beef, all absolutely delicious.

The meal was so exciting that we decided to go for dessert, something I rarely do at Vietnamese restaurants. Soon we were blissfully sipping our avocado fruit shake ($3) and pink jelly with coconut milk ($2.50), nodding agreeably at all the flavors we'd experienced. For days, I couldn't stop thinking about the vast menu and all I hadn't tried. So I went back two days later to test the seafood hot pot for two ($20.95) and the not-to-be-missed house specialty rice crepes ($7.95).

Orlando is now even further ahead of the rest in my quest to find the city with the very best Vietnamese cuisine.

As the midweek rush-hour traffic was crawling alone outside on Colonial Drive, the tables were filling up at Little Saigon. After 12 years in the same location just west of Mills Avenue, they've built a faithful downtown clientele.

The noise level rose as more customers were seated and conversation picked up. To the left, a father was instructing his toddler on how to use chopsticks. To the right, a woman was telling her companion about the difference between America and the Azores, from where she had immigrated. And across the room, another woman was pontificating at a healthy decibel about the sexual peccadilloes of Frank Lloyd Wright, as detailed in the recent PBS series.

The noise level rose as more customers were seated and conversation picked up. To the left, a father was instructing his toddler on how to use chopsticks. To the right, a woman was telling her companion about the difference between America and the Azores, from where she had immigrated. And across the room, another woman was pontificating at a healthy decibel about the sexual peccadilloes of Frank Lloyd Wright, as detailed in the recent PBS series.

With all of that background stimulus, it was hard for the menu to compete for our attention. We didn't know where to begin. There are 144 choices in bold Vietnamese print with translations in English. After a few minutes of poring over the fine print, we were experiencing sensory overload: rice noodles, rice noodle beef soups, noodle entrees, rice dishes, rice vermicelli dishes, rice plates, appetizers and additional appetizers.

With all of that background stimulus, it was hard for the menu to compete for our attention. We didn't know where to begin. There are 144 choices in bold Vietnamese print with translations in English. After a few minutes of poring over the fine print, we were experiencing sensory overload: rice noodles, rice noodle beef soups, noodle entrees, rice dishes, rice vermicelli dishes, rice plates, appetizers and additional appetizers.

We decided to start at the beginning, with the No. 1 Vietnamese pancake ($4.95), a fried crepe, doubled over and filled with shredded pork, shrimp and glassy noodles and sprouts. It was delicious and filling enough for a meal for one.

We decided to start at the beginning, with the No. 1 Vietnamese pancake ($4.95), a fried crepe, doubled over and filled with shredded pork, shrimp and glassy noodles and sprouts. It was delicious and filling enough for a meal for one.

Next we had No. 119, a combo platter featuring "tiny rice stick." We were visualizing compressed rice, formed into crunchy little sticks, but no, it was actually a form of rice-noodle vermicelli, only smaller and more threadlike in texture. This was topped with charbroiled pork cubes and "shrimp paste," which is a ground shrimp patty. It was a good deal at $7.95, including two pork spring rolls with hoisin sauce. During dinner, our waiter was very accommodating, checking back with us several times.

Next we had No. 119, a combo platter featuring "tiny rice stick." We were visualizing compressed rice, formed into crunchy little sticks, but no, it was actually a form of rice-noodle vermicelli, only smaller and more threadlike in texture. This was topped with charbroiled pork cubes and "shrimp paste," which is a ground shrimp patty. It was a good deal at $7.95, including two pork spring rolls with hoisin sauce. During dinner, our waiter was very accommodating, checking back with us several times.

On our next visit, at lunchtime, we had less success. The restaurant was full and our waiter was so rushed that he almost took off before we could place our full order. We requested the No. 107 appetizer, which the menu described as charbroiled pork with "rice papers," a translucent wrapper used around meats and vegetables ($6.95).

On our next visit, at lunchtime, we had less success. The restaurant was full and our waiter was so rushed that he almost took off before we could place our full order. We requested the No. 107 appetizer, which the menu described as charbroiled pork with "rice papers," a translucent wrapper used around meats and vegetables ($6.95).

When he brought it to our table moments later, we questioned whether it was even what we had ordered. There were no rice papers included with the dinner plate filled with vermicelli, pork meatballs, iceberg lettuce and cucumbers. The waiter, meanwhile, was busily juggling so many tables that it was impossible to get his attention until he delivered our entree -- the No. 81 stir-fried shrimp with rice ($5.50) that skimped on the most important ingredient of all. There were just five undersized shrimp on a mass of white rice, caramelized onions and veggies.

When he brought it to our table moments later, we questioned whether it was even what we had ordered. There were no rice papers included with the dinner plate filled with vermicelli, pork meatballs, iceberg lettuce and cucumbers. The waiter, meanwhile, was busily juggling so many tables that it was impossible to get his attention until he delivered our entree -- the No. 81 stir-fried shrimp with rice ($5.50) that skimped on the most important ingredient of all. There were just five undersized shrimp on a mass of white rice, caramelized onions and veggies.

It wasn't until the end of the meal that our waiter finally brought the rice papers for the appetizer, with no apology or explanation for the delay.

It wasn't until the end of the meal that our waiter finally brought the rice papers for the appetizer, with no apology or explanation for the delay.

We enjoyed most of the food we sampled on two visits. No doubt, this restaurant is a worthy choice for anyone who craves Vietnamese cuisine. But newcomers should pay close attention to the menu, ask lots of questions and avoid the dining rush hour.

If you've ever seen the movie "Tampopo," you're familiar with the delicate balance among flavors, textures and ingredients that makes up a good bowl of noodles. We don't have a traditional Japanese noodle shop in Orlando (excuse me a moment while I weep), but amid the crowd of Vietnam-ese eateries in town, we now have Phó 88, which calls itself a "noodle soup restaurant."

The phone is answered as "Beef Noodle 88," so take that as a hint; the specialty is various cuts of meat in soup, from very rare eye round and brisket to tendon and tripe. Nothing is wasted here. The restaurant is enormous, and it is made even more so by the great expanses of mirrors lining the walls, reminiscent of an exercise studio. The servings are large enough that you might need a workout.

The wrapper on the chopsticks proclaims in Vietnamese, "Enjoy your meal." I have yet to find out the significance of "88." I asked our waiter, who asked the owner and came back to say, "It's a lucky number ... isn't it?" The number 8 is considered lucky to Vietnamese, and there are a few (unrelated) Phó 88s around the country, but just as many Phó 89s, 75s, 79s and 777s. So, it's hard to say where luck lies.

While "phó" usually refers to beef soup, it literally means "your own bowl," as it's a meal that's not meant to be shared. You might want to share, though.

As with Japanese noodles, clarity of broth is a sign of good phó (pronounced "fuh," not "faux"). The masses of very thin rice noodles come submerged in clear, delicately seasoned broth, either beef- or chicken-based. The chicken broth is particularly good, lightly seasoned with ginger and scallion. It's a shame that the chicken meat (I ordered a combo of light and dark on two different occasions) was kind of tough. Soups come in three sizes ($3.95 to $5.95), and the extra-large could easily cradle your head.

Not to say that you can't stuff your head with other dishes. Shrimp, pork and crabmeat (which unfortunately is "faux") can be combined with egg or rice noodles ($5.25 to $7.75). Items that appear on most Vietnamese menus, such as pork and spring rolls on rice vermicelli ($4.95), are here as well -- along with "exotics" like shrimp paste on sugar cane, beef stew and various fried rice dishes.

I advise eating in rather than ordering to go. The noodles tend to become a unified lump if not submerged immediately, and the portions of meat are not as large in takeout.

Noodle shops are the fast-food joints of the Far East, and with Phó 88 in town, why settle for a burger?

If I lived somewhere in the middle of nowhere I would be jumping for joy at the arrival of Pho Hoa, the new Vietnamese soup emporium that has moved in to the Primrose Avenue spot vacated by the Golden Lake restaurant. But with the many nearby family-owned Vietnamese eateries (including Pho 88, another soup place a scant 1.2 miles away), the addition of a franchise seems redundant. Truth is, a franchise is a relatively risk-free way of opening a new restaurant and sharing the company's national advertising.

There are more than 90 other Pho Hoas and sister Pho Cong Lys, from California to Boston and Ontario to Kuala Lumpur. The chain emphasizes the "Health Conscious Choice" of its broth-based dishes. And although I could not find any exact nutritional information, there doesn't seem to be much danger in the beef and chicken consommés, with pieces of meat, noodles and a whole bunch of vegetables. A bowl here is sort of like having a soup, salad and main course all at once.

There are more than 90 other Pho Hoas and sister Pho Cong Lys, from California to Boston and Ontario to Kuala Lumpur. The chain emphasizes the "Health Conscious Choice" of its broth-based dishes. And although I could not find any exact nutritional information, there doesn't seem to be much danger in the beef and chicken consommés, with pieces of meat, noodles and a whole bunch of vegetables. A bowl here is sort of like having a soup, salad and main course all at once.

The sign looming over Pho Hoa reads, "The best Vietnamese food in town," and I can undeniably proclaim, "Not in this town." But the food ain't bad, and judging by the mostly Vietnamese clientele, rather authentic. The clear soup bases of beef or chicken are slow-simmered and delicately seasoned, even the beef broth is a lustrous golden color. The bowls come large ($5.50) and even larger ($6.50), loaded with rice noodles, mushrooms, and in the case of the chicken pho, bits of cauliflower and broccoli. The pho do bien chua cay (seafood soup, $6.50) finds squid, tender scallops and a bit of fish floating amongst the noodles, a savory combination that unfortunately included the dreaded "fake crab." Tell them to leave it out if at all possible.

The sign looming over Pho Hoa reads, "The best Vietnamese food in town," and I can undeniably proclaim, "Not in this town." But the food ain't bad, and judging by the mostly Vietnamese clientele, rather authentic. The clear soup bases of beef or chicken are slow-simmered and delicately seasoned, even the beef broth is a lustrous golden color. The bowls come large ($5.50) and even larger ($6.50), loaded with rice noodles, mushrooms, and in the case of the chicken pho, bits of cauliflower and broccoli. The pho do bien chua cay (seafood soup, $6.50) finds squid, tender scallops and a bit of fish floating amongst the noodles, a savory combination that unfortunately included the dreaded "fake crab." Tell them to leave it out if at all possible.

The big adventure is the beef soup (which is what "pho" means). To the basic dish is added any number of beef cuts, from steak, brisket and meatballs ("For Beginners" on the menu) to tendon, bible tripe (so named because it looks like the pages of a book) and flank steak, either "fatty" or "crunchy" (cooked by the heat of the soup or well-done).

The big adventure is the beef soup (which is what "pho" means). To the basic dish is added any number of beef cuts, from steak, brisket and meatballs ("For Beginners" on the menu) to tendon, bible tripe (so named because it looks like the pages of a book) and flank steak, either "fatty" or "crunchy" (cooked by the heat of the soup or well-done).

I will enthusiastically recommend the blended drinks, in particular the avocado one ($3.25). It looked like soft-serve pistachio ice cream and tasted like frozen guacamole.

I will enthusiastically recommend the blended drinks, in particular the avocado one ($3.25). It looked like soft-serve pistachio ice cream and tasted like frozen guacamole.

The etiquette of pho calls for an abundance of seasoning and supplementing. There's hoisin sauce for a sweet and spicy kick of garlic and soy; sesame oil for a mellow fragrance; basil leaves, coriander, bean sprouts and jalapeños for crunch, bite and heat; and the ever-present red chili sauce. Try being adventurous and slurp it down -- it's OK to slurp here.

Aiming higher than the spate of casual Vietnamese eateries lining Colonial Drive, Oviedo's Saigon Flavors certainly has the sultry mood, decorative panache and intimate space that sets it apart from its downtown kin. Deep reds and cool blues with wall cutouts housing assorted objets d'art, including four beautifully painted renderings of Vietnam's four regions, lend to a mood of refined tranquility. So why mar the serenity by situating a hostess stand in the dining room? It's not so much the stand's placement as how it serves as a congregating ground for owner Charlie Tang and his staff, who use it as a forum for idle chatter. Buckling to one's boredom is commonplace in the service biz, but for a restaurant bent on raising the bar, such behavior takes a bit of shimmer off the surface. Both our meals here began with a conscious effort to turn a deaf ear to the chitchat and to nourish our senses with our eyes and mouths.

And with corpulent gòi cuôn, we were able to do just that. Summer rolls ($3.50) of the grilled pork, lemon-chicken and meatball varieties restored some of the luster, but it was the grape leaves stuffed with marinated char-grilled beef that really shone. A slight charring of the leaves themselves only enhanced the flavors, but a dip in the homemade sweet-and-sour sauce wasn't just unnecessary, it vitiated the essence. If you must, a drop or two of the red pepper chutney provides the proper zing.

Poring over the 50-odd 'chef's specials� and entrees, we were steered toward the canh chua cá ($12.95), a fish soup made sweet by pineapples and sour by the addition of tamarind. Our obliging server proceeded to spoon some rice into a bowl, on top of which he ladled a piping-hot broth teeming with tilapia fillets, bean sprouts, okra, tomatoes and peppermint. The surprisingly harmonious and texturally symphonic soup would be even better the next day, we were told, and sure enough, the balanced but bolder broth proved gratifying the following night.

One of my favorite places in town to enjoy a good cheap bowl of pho is Viet Garden, and the fact that Tang owned that restaurant back in the '90s had me salivating at the thought of sampling the liquid meal here. While good, the pho ($7.50) with beef eye-round, flank and meatballs seemed deficient in fragrant star anise, and the lack of depth and complexity in the broth had us compensating by adding more Thai basil. On the noodle front, we opted for another of the chef's specialties ' an artfully presented, albeit safe, plate of crispy combo noodles ($11.95) crowned with plenty of shrimp, beef, chicken and a host of vegetables from bok choy to water chestnuts stir-fried in an unremarkable brown garlic sauce.

If potent Viet coffee with condensed milk ($3.50) doesn't sweeten your tooth, deliciously mild and runny flan ($2.95), as well as the fried banana flambé ($4.95) served with sesame- specked coconut ice cream, certainly will.

While you won't find the profligate aggregation of dishes at Saigon Flavors that you would in the humble eateries on Colonial Drive, you won't find the third-world prices either. But if Viet Garden was any indication, Tang will make this work. His restaurant may not even be the size of Ho Chi Minh's hothouse, but Tang's ambitions may be just as big.

While you won't find the profligate aggregation of dishes at Saigon Flavors that you would in the humble eateries on Colonial Drive, you won't find the third-world prices either. But if Viet Garden was any indication, Tang will make this work. His restaurant may not even be the size of Ho Chi Minh's hothouse, but Tang's ambitions may be just as big.

There was nothing deliberate about Viet Garden's decision to offer a half Vietnamese, half Thai menu when it opened in 1994. It was merely a reflection of a kitchen team skilled in both cuisines. But as Thai food has taken off in popularity, Viet Garden has added even more Thai items and specials.

The restaurant continues to do an equally good job with its Vietnamese and Thai creations. And the quietly understated atmosphere -- the tile floors are glossy and polished, and lacquered furniture is precisely arranged -- ensures the emphasis stays on the food.

The restaurant continues to do an equally good job with its Vietnamese and Thai creations. And the quietly understated atmosphere -- the tile floors are glossy and polished, and lacquered furniture is precisely arranged -- ensures the emphasis stays on the food.

We started off with nam sod ($5.95), a fantastic Thai appetizer that is much more delectable than it sounds. Ground chicken is jazzed up with ginger, scallions, chili and lime dressing, and it crunches with the texture of the whole peanuts. Served with a pot of peanut sauce, this appetizer was our favorite. Other items not to miss include the popular "pineapple fried rice" ($8.50), served in a scooped-out pineapple shell with chicken, shrimp, eggs and scallions.

We started off with nam sod ($5.95), a fantastic Thai appetizer that is much more delectable than it sounds. Ground chicken is jazzed up with ginger, scallions, chili and lime dressing, and it crunches with the texture of the whole peanuts. Served with a pot of peanut sauce, this appetizer was our favorite. Other items not to miss include the popular "pineapple fried rice" ($8.50), served in a scooped-out pineapple shell with chicken, shrimp, eggs and scallions.

Next we moved on to the "Viet combo appetizer" ($7.95), which featured a fabulous shrimp toast. Luscious shrimp paste was spread over toast points and broiled until sizzling. There also were crackling-crisp spring rolls, fresh garden rolls, beef tenders and fried wontons, all of which were appealing.

Next we moved on to the "Viet combo appetizer" ($7.95), which featured a fabulous shrimp toast. Luscious shrimp paste was spread over toast points and broiled until sizzling. There also were crackling-crisp spring rolls, fresh garden rolls, beef tenders and fried wontons, all of which were appealing.

We also liked fine rice vermicelli topped with grilled pork ($6.50). The bed of pure white rice noodles was properly sticky, and the pork strips were flawlessly tender. The dish was even better enjoyed with a sprinkling of crushed nuts, with each forkful dabbed into plummy hoisin sauce.

We also liked fine rice vermicelli topped with grilled pork ($6.50). The bed of pure white rice noodles was properly sticky, and the pork strips were flawlessly tender. The dish was even better enjoyed with a sprinkling of crushed nuts, with each forkful dabbed into plummy hoisin sauce.

Less exciting was the "flower connection" ($9.95), a surf-and-turf extravaganza presented in a blossom formed from fried wonton skins. There were shrimp, scallops, pork, chicken and stir-fried vegetables, but something was missing in the sauce, which was bland and flavorless.

Less exciting was the "flower connection" ($9.95), a surf-and-turf extravaganza presented in a blossom formed from fried wonton skins. There were shrimp, scallops, pork, chicken and stir-fried vegetables, but something was missing in the sauce, which was bland and flavorless.

The only lapse in service came at the end of the meal, when we were left waiting for the check for nearly 15 minutes after we had finished eating and only a few other customers lingered. We finally beckoned to our waiter, who was seated at an empty table across the room. He brought the check and just one box instead of the two requested for our leftovers.

The only lapse in service came at the end of the meal, when we were left waiting for the check for nearly 15 minutes after we had finished eating and only a few other customers lingered. We finally beckoned to our waiter, who was seated at an empty table across the room. He brought the check and just one box instead of the two requested for our leftovers.

Although service isn't always as sharp as it should be, you can count on Viet Garden for delicious food from the Far East, time and again.

Affordable pho, rice bowls and noodle bowls makes this small, trendy eatery a bastion for collegians attending UCF and Full Sail. Fair warning: The place can get packed pretty quickly, but if you snag a table, take advantage and order the oversized “king pho” bowl with as beefy a broth you’ll ever slurp. While bao and spring rolls are serviceable, a rice bowl of crispy tofu, and the banh-mi are sure-fire options. Open daily.
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