Where to: Ban Tôi Restaurant, a new Vietnamese spot in Dorchester’s Savin Hill neighborhood.
Why: Ban Tôi is across the street from Banh Mi Ba Le, a favorite for takeout sandwiches, snacks, smoothies, and more. But sometimes you want to sit down and have a proper meal. Ban Tôi is a stylish little restaurant with warm yellow walls hung with black-and-white architectural photos, a pressed-tin ceiling, and plenty of polished stone.
The Back Story: This is the first restaurant for chef-owner Chieu Nguyen, who came to the United States from Saigon more than 20 years ago. He previously ran a nail salon. Why the career change? “I love to cook,” he says. “It is part of my dream job.” The restaurant’s name means “my friend” in Vietnamese.
What to Eat: Vietnamese restaurants in the Boston area all have their own personalities and specialties, but their menus are often vast and stocked with dishes diners have come to expect. Ban Tôi’s offerings are more tightly edited. There are a few salads, a few versions of pho, a couple of rice plates, and weekend specials. The focus is on seafood (stir-fried crawfish with garlic and butter, sweet snails roasted with salt, grilled squid sate) and hot pot (chicken with bird’s eye chiles and egg noodles, goat with soft tofu and taro). The simpler dishes feel like home cooking: a plate of chicken and rice; pho bo dac biet, beef noodle soup with brisket, bone-in short rib, and chewy segments of aorta gleaming white from the clear broth.
What to Drink: In addition to soda, Ban Tôi serves sugarcane juice, mung-bean milk, and sweet, refreshing orange juice squeezed right at the counter.
The Takeaway: Ban Tôi serves homey dishes and less-often-seen-in-these-parts Vietnamese specialties in a pleasant, modern dining room.
1035 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, 617-326-6073
Devra First can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.