Van Da is a Vietnamese restaurant in the East Village with a lounge-like bar area on the ground floor, and a little basement dining room that will make you feel chic. It’s a cool spot, and sitting outside in the tented parklet is the perfect setting for catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in a year while making your way through a variety of regional Vietnamese dishes. Take advantage of their current set menu for two, which includes the Hue sampler (two different types of dumplings and one of my favorite dishes, the banh beo), plus your choice of two mid-course dishes - like a grilled eggplant salad, or the extremely delicious pho short rib grilled cheese - and one entree. The set menu is priced reasonably at $35 per person, and makes ordering with a third-tier friend about as easy as it gets.
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