Going Global in the Gables

Two piquant items could have used a little tenderizing. A calamari salad was zingy with onion, scallions, cilantro, and a chili-infused lemon dressing, but the squid itself was tough and chewy. Pan-seared sirloin steak cubes, tossed with onions and vinaigrette, suffered similarly: great flavor, poor texture. Kind of like an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, come to think of it.

The Vietnamese are known for their soups, or pho, and Miss Saigon Bistro did not disappoint. The restaurant offers more than a dozen, whose origins can be traced to various parts of Vietnam -- from the northern meatball noodle soup to the southern steamed noodles in oyster sauce. We went for the family-size canh chua, a satisfying tureen of hot-and-sour broth that contained bean sprouts, okra, tomato, and pineapple. A plethora of jumbo shrimp also floated in the clear soup, which was highly flavored with mint, cilantro, and garlic.

As much as the soup is a must, dessert is a mustn't. Heavy layer cakes (chocolate, black forest, and carrot) and tiramisu, which the Nguyens bring in from elsewhere, don't complement the cuisine. Many Vietnamese simply eat fruit at the end of a meal; coconut sorbet is probably the closest you'll get here.

But all told, the quality of the Vietnamese cuisine at Miss Saigon Bistro raises the level of ethnic eating in Miami. Food & Wine, take note: Now that we've achieved national acclaim, we will no longer tolerate international un-recognition.

Miss Saigon Bistro
146 Giralda Ave, Coral Gables; 305-446-8006. Lunch and dinner Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. till 10:00 p.m; Friday and Saturday till 11:00 p.m. Dinner Sunday from 5:00 till 10:00 p.m.

Summer rolls
$3.95
Calamari salad
$7.25
Canh chua
$7.50
Caramelized ribs
$10.95
Lemon-grass crispy fish
$14.95

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