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Pete Wells Calls Madame Vo BBQ’s Beef Tasting a ‘Route to Happiness’

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The critic recommends heading in to the East Village Vietnamese barbecue restaurant for the tasting rather than ordering a la carte

Madame Vo BBQ Alex Staniloff

Vietnamese barbecue restaurant Madame Vo BBQ has the ability to “follow or leap over Vietnamese tradition at will,” Times critic Pete Wells writes today in his one-star review.

He find that the restaurant’s signature seven-course beef tasting is the way to go, calling it the “surest route to happiness” at the three-month-old East Village spot:

The first of the seven beefs is typically boi tai chanh, a raw beef salad, and this is a high point, too. Lean eye of round cut into thin pink sheets is the canvas for an action-painting whirl of fried shallots, raw red onions, chopped peanuts and slivers of fresh mint. Pretty standard stuff so far, but then Mr. Ly bathes the salad in tangerine-lime vinaigrette, which has a positively buoyant effect, and splashes it with a bright-green, lemony pulp of fresh rau ram puréed in oil.

In the middle of this $59 menu come the grilled meats, the courses for which the table salad and rice paper wrappers have been waiting. The finest of these might be the relatively straightforward five-spice tongue, although the betel-leaf-wrapped bundles of seasoned ground beef — bo la lot — are soothing and stimulating at once, and the New York strip with marrow butter is a clever way to acknowledge Manhattan’s own beef-eating rituals, even if it would draw blank stares on the streets of Saigon.

Wells also loves the oxtail congee, writing that “everything about it is wonderful.” Other dishes that didn’t quite hit the mark include “pointlessly indulgent” short rib and bone marrow spring rolls as well as “mushy” grilled prawns.

The restaurant, from wife-husband team Yen Vo and Jimmy Ly, is three months old, and Wells finds that that shows in some food and the sometimes “inattentive” service. But overall, he thinks Madame Vo BBQ “may eventually run as smoothly as its older sibling.” One star.

Madame Vo BBQ

104 2nd Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10003 (917) 675-7570 Visit Website

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