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'NAM YANKEES

The other soup we tried was tamer but also suffered from hasty assemblage. Too much star anise made the weak broth of the pho bo vien gio lua ($5) overly sweet, and the meat balls and pork rolls swimming in it had all the appeal of sponges. The noodle and rice dishes--the best of the batch was com thit heo nuong cha gio ($5.50), a mess of pork served over jasmine rice--at least had the marinade on the grilled meats to pump up the flavor. Unfortunately, some of the meats seemed to have been cooked earlier and reheated in the microwave--they were slightly dried out and chewy around the edges, which rarely happens with the Vietnamese style of grilling. The shrimp in the bun thit nuong dac biet ($6.50) was greasy with pig fat, and the beef and pork were a tad dry. A similar dish minus the shrimp and pork but with no fewer words in its name, bun thit bo nuong cha gio ($5.50), contained more of the same dry beef.

The best part of our meal was the two egg rolls included with most entrees. Filled with fresh vegetables and ground pork, they'd been fried to a nice, nongreasy consistency. Too bad that when ordered separately ($4.95 for six), the egg rolls came with a strange nuoc cham whose unappetizing taste we never could identify. A beguiling peanut sauce, on the other hand, arrived with the spring rolls ($2.50 for four), which looked as if they'd been put together in the dark. The wrappings were so loose they started to fall apart as soon as we bit into them, revealing some pork and shrimp, some mint, a few skinny vegetables and a lot of rice noodles inside. In a way, they exemplified the sense we got at Co-Do of people scrambling to pull things together.

For a restaurant to survive, its food must taste at least as good as the place looks. Otherwise, there's always another restaurant waiting to fill the gap.

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