[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Catfish isn't really lunch routine—even less so in Chinatown where it's hardly common—but this Ca Kho To (Caramel Fish, $9.95) at Pho Grand fits the bill surprisingly well.

Four chunks of tender catfish—not a dry or overcooked spot in sight—come bathed in Vietnamese caramel sauce: a savory-more-than-sweet syrup intensified with fish sauce and chilies. The caramel brings out the fish's natural sweetness without overwhelming it with sugar, and there's enough leftover sauce in the bottom of the clay pot to spoon over accompanying white rice.

It's not the cheapest lunch in Chinatown (almost two digits!), but it's a refreshing instance of moderate portioning and skilled fish cookery. Given the pretty meager Vietnamese options we have in this city, this dish is a plus.

Pho Grand

277 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002 (map)

About the author: Max Falkowitz is the editor of Serious Eats: New York. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.

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