BEST NOUVELLE VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT - 2006
Using as her inspiration the imperial cuisine of Hue and the family dinners that her mother still cooks on weekends, Mary Nguyen opened Parallel Seventeen just in time to prove that the small-plates fad did not begin and end with the Spanish. Here she's arranged a menu that offers the best of Vietnamese cuisine, designed with a modernist's touch. The banh mi sandwich served whole at lunch is deconstructed at dinner into a dreamy charcuterie plate of pork pate and mousse and smoky char siu. The pho is powerful and fiercely traditional, while the gaufrettes showcase French influences. The space this food is served in displays Nguyen's contemporary sensibilities: It's comfortable, casual, traditional and nouvelle all at the same time, just like her cooking.