Post-Dispatch file photo


Mai Lee

This year will see the opening of Nudo, the long-awaited ramen restaurant from Qui Tran, the son of Mai Lee founder Lee Tran and, increasingly over recent years, the public face of her 30-year-old Vietnamese restaurant. Anticipation for Nudo is understandably high. Ramen is as trendy as can be in St. Louis right now, Mai Lee is beloved and Qui Tran’s ramen research-and-development has included studying with Japanese ramen master Shigetoshi Nakamura. But you don’t need to care about ramen to be excited for Nudo. More than once in interviews over the years, Tran has told me his favorite station to work in Mai Lee’s kitchen is soup, and no Vietnamese restaurant in town — maybe no other restaurant, period — displays a mastery of as many different styles of soup as Mai Lee, from the familiar, anise-accented pho to fiery bun bo hue to lesser-known egg noodles, clear noodles and rice porridges. Those soups, of course, are just one small part of Mai Lee’s epic range of more than 200 dishes, almost all of which, picked at random, I’d recommend, which is why, three decades later, diners continue to flock here.

Last year's ranking: 21

Opened: 1984

Must order: Bun bo hue ($8.95)