In a Stew

A steal of a Vietnamese lunch in Midtown

Considering the way in which New York has fallen all over itself for banh mi, you'd think the Vietnamese sandwich was the only noteworthy result of French colonialism.

Clearly, not enough people have tried the bo kho ($4.25) at the weeks-old Cha Pa's Noodles and Grill in Midtown.

This unprepossessing beef stew is as humble as its layers of flavor are fathomless; it's the kind of dish you'll often find simmering on a home stove. Indeed, Cha Pa's chef, Tri Tong (a veteran of such beloved Vietnamese restaurants as Pho Bang and Pho Grand), uses a recipe that dates back to his family's kitchen in 1970s Saigon.

The techniques are classically French, but the seasonings are distinctly Vietnamese. First, Tong pan-fries chunks of beef, then he braises them for at least five hours in house-made beef stock laced with lemongrass, cinnamon and annatto, which colors the stew a brilliant maroon.

Fluted carrots are added for contrast, and the bo kho is served with slices of crackly baguette from Bánh Mì Saigon Bakery. We always ask for lime to sharpen the dark, complex flavors of the stew itself.

Bo kho versus banh mi: For now, the stew has trumped the sandwich.

Cha Pa's Noodles and Grill, 314 W. 52nd St. (between Eighth and Ninth aves.); 212-956-9300 or chapasnyc.com