Gói cuón (pronounced, roughly, goy kwan, a.k.a. summer roll). These beautifully translucent rice-paper rolls of rice noodles, shrimp or pork, pickled daikon, and carrot, lettuce and mint are best appreciated dipped into the traditional salty-sweet peanutty sauce.
It’s a shame Vietnamese restaurants are a relative rarity in an age when light, fresh, healthy food is in such high fashion, for perhaps no single cuisine embraces those concepts so well and with such harmony. Like Thai food, Vietnamese dishes frequently encompass sweet, sour, salty and spicy accents working together, and they most typically arrive with an array of suite-your-taste condiments, dips and herbs.
Owner and Vietnam native Thinh Pham fulfilled his lifelong dream with stylish earnestness, chocking the menu with phó and other labor-intensive Vietnamese soups, but also lacing it nicely with herbal rice-noodle dishes, or bún ($14-$16), and shaking beef ($18), a wok-fired, sweetly salty mix of filet mignon cubes, salad and tomatoes—quite possibly Vietnam’s most delectable culinary creation ($18).
18949 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 703-6626 • website
Friendly service and the best French bread in town elevate the simple beauty of so-called Vietnamese subs, which are stuffed with ham, pâtê, meatballs and other meaty delights, then perked up with pickled carrot and daikon and perfumed with cilantro. Lighter moments can be found in the crisp-and-meaty salad with chicken (gói gà) or the impeccable summer rolls with shrimp.
209 E. Main St., Newark, 525-6145 • website
Since the beginning of time, it seems, this oddly located outpost (tucked between interchanges in Newark’s subdivision netherland) has stood as a fairly dependable destination.
2938 Ogletown Road, Newark • 737-6832
Yet another strip-center phó specialist, Pho Cali keeps its prices low and its ambiance suited more for a quick lunch than a leisurely meal—but it’s still well worth it.
4373 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 999-8107 • website
Be ready to choose from some 30-odd phó recipes. The menu is bolstered nicely with classic grilled meat dishes (served with either vermicelli/bún or rice). Some Yelpers grumble about sagging standards; while others treasure its rare-for-Bear presence.
1146 Pulaski Hwy., Bear, 595-2529 • website
This newcomer is already rated well ahead of its local rivals in the simmering phó battles, a status that’s reinforced by a menu that offers five different types of summer rolls, three different sate skewers, rice-or-vermicelli bowls, and even bánh mì.
2671 Kirkwood Hwy., Newark, 369-3993 • website