Dong Khanh 

I've eaten at Dong Khanh many times and have not once been disappointed. It usually happens like this: Not wanting the usual fare for lunch, we rack our brains to come up with an option. Pizza? No. Burgers? No. Sushi? Not on a Monday. Nothing seems to sound good. So we keep thinking, mentally traveling around in our car and remembering the various restaurant signs in the two-mile radius of the office. We always smile to ourselves when we remember the little Vietnamese place on Broadway at the far eastern edge of downtown Boise. We find ourselves a little guilty for not remembering how good it was last time we ate there, and even though we promised ourselves we would not forget.

I had a solo lunch there the other day. I ate and caught up on my entertainment magazines, and watched the other diners. I overheard one older couple asking about the soups. Now why hadn't I thought of that on such a bone-chilling day? At least I'd had the sense to get a pot of hot tea to warm my innards, and I figured that if the tea didn't do the trick, I was going to pile the hot spicy sauce condiment all over my rice.

Lunches at Dong Khanh are always reasonable and quick. For $5 to $8, you can get one of many dishes from authentic Vietnamese to Chinese favorites. If it's something more exotic than traditional Asian fare (which in Boise amounts to Chinese or sushi), then experiment a little with some of the less familiar dishes. Give a cha gio appetizer a try, a popular deep-fried snack served in its home country by street vendors. On my solo visit, I had some pot stickers, and though I planned to save some to take home for dinner, they were gone by the end of the meal. The Vietnamese hot and sour soup, a variation on the Chinese version with pineapple and fresh tamarind, sounded good, although I didn't have enough of an appetite to add it to my line up.

Cooking in a clay pot is a unique style of preparing Vietnamese cuisine, and Dong Khanh's abalone chicken, prepared that way, tempted me. I enjoy clay pot dishes because the rice in the bottom gets crispy and the dish comes out piping hot. I'm a big fan of the combination of sweet and spicy in Vietnamese hot dishes, because it's a flavor that treats and tantalizes as it goes down. One unique item I have yet to try—but have been looking forward to on a special occasion—is Dong Khanh's selection of lamb dishes. I've never seen a kung pao lamb on any menu, and served spicy, it's bound to be good.

As far as decor, Dong Khahn won't knock your socks off, but why are you really here anyway? It's nothing fancy; it's just good food.

—Bingo Barnes eats so much red chili paste on his rice that his scalp sweats and he screams "Good Morning Vietnam" the next day.

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