Saigon also serves Vietnamese breakfast and respectable banh mi sandwiches ($3!) at lunch. The restaurant is actually brighter in the evening, thanks to some of the most aggressive track lighting I have ever seen outside a hospital. But the space is charming enough to stand up to the lumens — cozy though not cramped, with lots of red and blonde wood, and deeply color-saturated oil paintings of vignettes from the countryside of old Vietnam.

There is more color in the lovely Vietnamese dresses worn by the two young women who run the front of the room. They are real charmers themselves, and though they bring your food to table a bit willy-nilly, they work hard to help you negotiate the crowd of dishes they create. Sauces were gestured at, explained, and occasionally picked up and poured. They greet you with a complimentary appetizer or soup. When we waited five minutes for a table we were apologized to profusely. But Saigon need make no apologies for its charming service, or for its hybridity. What's best about Vietnamese cuisine is its openness to outside influences, and Saigon offers many good ways to experience the results.

Brian Duff can be reached

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