You come here for the meat. If Vinh-Sun BBQ & Restaurantís name doesnít make this clear, the scene through the front window eliminates any doubt. Huge hunks of animal protein ó a sizable slab of pork; pale yellow half-chickens; a whole roasted duck pointed downward, grease dripping from its bill ó hang from steel hooks, swaying gently from side to side.
And lo, the meat is good. The baked-salty-chicken-and-vegetable-rice plate ($5) features a generous section of white meat, served on the bone with the skin and cooked just enough. Seasoned only with salt, itís unexpectedly succulent and flavorful, and nicely complemented by a generous portion of verdant Chinese broccoli, which strikes an ideal balance between tenderness and crispness. The barbecued-pork Hong KongĖstyle lo mein ($5.75) ó served on a bed of dry lo mein noodles, with Chinese broccoli on the side ó also showcases Vinh-Sunís facility with flesh. Barbecued to perfection, the meatís exterior has an enticing, sweet-salty crust; inside, the morsels are lean (but not too lean) and tender.
When ordering at Vinh-Sun, bear in mind that youíll experience more of the animal here ó whatever that animal may be ó than you would in a less-authentic restaurant. Take the orange-flavored crispy beef ($9.95), in which sweet citrus overtones are tempered (and complemented) by the liberal use of hot peppers. Itís a tasty item, but less crispy than one might expect. Upon further examination, the cause is clear: every piece of beef is lined with a thin ribbon of fat. Again, the meat is perfectly cooked; instead of the desiccated nuggets you might get at a more Americanized restaurant, these are medium-rare and flavorful. Still, the consistency could unsettle unaccustomed palates.
Timid diners do have a few options, however, including various American-style lo meins ($5.25 for most varieties) and, oddly, spaghetti bolognese ($5.95) and toast with peanut butter and jam ($1.95).
Finally, a word about Vinh-Sunís ambiance. The restaurant, which opened last year after a lengthy building renovation, is a pleasure to dine in. Done up in soft pastels, the interior is clean and well-lit. (The medley of easy-listening favorites playing in the background is an added bonus.) Factor in the friendly and attentive service, and Vinh-Sun is an ideal place for curious carnivores to expand their horizons.
Vinh-Sun BBQ & Restaurant, located at 58 Beach Street, in Chinatown, is open daily, from 8 a.m. to midnight. Call (617) 338-1368.