Restaurant of the Week: Mai House

With Mai House, the new Tribeca venture from restaurateur Drew Nieporent (Tribeca Grill, Nobu and Centrico) and chef Michael Bao Huynh (Bao 111, Bao Noodles), Vietnamese food may be going the way of Chinese, which used to mean greasy takeout eaten at home on the couch wearing your fuzzy slippers but now implies plush banquettes and stilettos (think Buddakan and Chinatown Brasserie). Similarly, Mai House moves Vietnamese cooking in that same high-end direction. The beautiful space is set off by a series of flower lanterns and a stunning floor-to-ceiling curtain of intricately carved wood that separates the kitchen from the main dining room. Colorful cocktails crafted from sake and fresh juices liven up the bar, while in the dining room, the pleasures of the kitchen hit their mark. Summer rolls the size of Italian sausages are overstuffed with fresh herbs, vermicelli noodles and sweet succulent shrimp ($11). A spicy salad of rare beef is tossed with grapefruit, fiery chiles and juicy lime ($12). Dungeness crab ($29) is taken out of its shell, broken into lovely lumps and piled on a bed of glass noodles topped with garlic, chives and mushrooms. Clay-pot organic chicken ($18) is wildly saturated with flavor, and the house lacxa ($23) is the stuff dreams are made of: spicy curry loaded up with king prawns, baby shrimp and noodles. Due to the generous portions, you'll have leftovers. But don't worry: It's still OK to take them home and eat them on the couch in your fuzzy slippers. 186 Franklin St., (212) 431-0606. Andrea Strong

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