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CHEAP EATS

Everything's made to order

Email|Print| Text size + By Sheryl Julian
May 10, 2007

If a European or American restaurant did what the Vietnamese restaurant Sunrise does, it would boast about it all over the menu and its website. Sunrise makes everything to order and brings it to you as soon as it's cooked. This system means that your food tastes very fresh - absolutely no withered ends on vegetables or spring-roll wrappers. But it also means that while you're nibbling an appetizer, the next dishes begin appearing. This is hardly a complaint. Just get ready for a crowded table.

Tam and Diep Bui have owned Sunrise Restaurant for more than seven years; son Khai is now in the business. It's located in a mini stripmall next to Dependable Cleaners, so when you approach the restaurant, you get delectable Asian aromas mixed with commercial detergent. Step inside the restaurant, and you leave the other smells behind.

Sunrise does a brisk takeout business, and it seems that not many people opt to eat in. Only a few of the 15 or so tables were occupied on a couple of visits. I've never understood why so many customers prefer Asian food to go, since it tastes best the instant it's made.

Fresh spring rolls (two for $3) are obviously rolled up minutes ago. Their wrappers are perfectly tender, and the rolls are pudgy and generously filled with shrimp, fresh mint, and rice noodles. Crisp and nicely seasoned with a slightly sweet vinegary dressing, the shrimp salad ($6.95) is made with shredded greens and both mint and basil, topped with crushed peanuts.

Four of us share a large serving of chicken noodle pho ($4.75, $5.25, and $6.25), which is difficult to divvy up because the rice noodles stay heaped on the bottom. The soup itself is terrific - a clear broth with intense flavors, morsels of chicken, and lots of fresh coriander leaves.

Bun, which consists of rice noodles (vermicelli) topped with crisp vegetables and spicy meats, are one of the best dishes in Vietnamese cuisine. Here, bun is offered with spicy barbecue beef ($5.75), which is delightfully salty in a beef jerky way, and with all kinds of other garnishes, including shrimp cake and grilled ham cake ($7.50). Both cakes are made from ground pastes that are deep-fried; the ham is grilled, too. When thinly sliced, they're packed with the flavor of their main ingredient. The shrimp tastes a little like ground shrimp on sugar cane.

A dish of golden lo mein, tossed with stir-fried beef, chicken, shrimp, and pork ($7.50), has just enough mild soy-based sauce to enhance the noodles without drenching them. Spicier and crunchier is stir-fried chicken with lemongrass ($5.75) and stir-fried beef with lemongrass and chilies ($8.50), which both come with rice. The beef dish, requested hot, isn't hot enough for my guest, so he reaches over to a cluster of red-hot bottles and adds several spoonfuls to the side of his dish.

With that kind of heat, what you really want is a bottle of beer. Khai Bui tells me that the restaurant has applied for a liquor license. That would make Sunrise just about perfect - and probably persuade all those takeout customers to have a seat.

SUNRISE RESTAURANT

Cuisine: Vietnamese/Chinese

Address: 1157 Dorchester Ave, Boston (Dorchester)

Phone: 617-617-7314

Hours: 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

Prices: Appetizers $3.25-$7.25. Soups and entrees $4.75-$11.95.

May We Suggest: Fresh spring rolls, shrimp salad, chicken noodle soup, barbecue pork bun, lo mein with beef and chicken, stir-fried chicken with lemongrass.

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