Tot Vietnamnoms, a restaurant perfectly designed for replication into a chain of fast-casual eateries, is described on its website by this quote from owner Khanh Le: "Tot is a culmination of my love of Vietnamese food and my American Dream."

Tot Vietnamnoms, a restaurant perfectly designed for replication into a chain of fast-casual eateries, is described on its website by this quote from owner Khanh Le: "Tot is a culmination of my love of Vietnamese food and my American Dream."

Le - an energetic, hands-on guy whose parents own Lan Viet Market in the North Market - has apparently dreamed about offering good, inexpensive Vietnamese food in an upbeat, user-friendly setting that could attract both newcomers and longtime fans of the cuisine.

Serving in the Kingsdale Shopping Center since mid-September, Tot is bright, modern and sleek. Hip-hop and bouncy contemporary pop play in a modest-sized, counter-ordering spot equipped with blond wooden tables and banquettes, oversize Edison bulbs and fanciful, boat-like wall decorations. Obvious attention has been paid to branding and the creation of a jaunty logo.

Attention is given to Tot's food, too. Two starters testifying to this are the Grilled Pork Sausage ($5) and the Firecracker Eggplant Salad ($5). The house-made sausage arrives like a giant, juicy, bunless burger alluringly seared and apportioned into slices. Served, as most items are, with sweetened fish sauce plus pickled daikon and carrot threads, the delicious meat is slightly sweet and gently redolent of ginger.

Featuring crisp, pickled green Thai eggplant - instead of purple eggplant, which can be mushy and bitter - the colorful Firecracker Salad shocked my eggplant-hating tablemate because she loved it. The refreshing, lightly spicy, healthful and texturally complex dish also includes roasted peanuts, bean sprouts, red cabbage, Thai basil, cilantro, vinegar, fish sauce, pickled daikon and carrot.

If two other appetizers are less noteworthy - the adeptly grilled Lemongrass Chicken Skewers ($5) with minimal lemongrass flavor, and nice-enough Summer Rolls ($2) with a couple small shrimp each - they're still good deals.

So are Tot's winning Banh Mi sandwiches ($6 to $7). Pairing well with the sweet-tart, tangerine-like Calamansi Juice ($3) - Tot doesn't offer alcohol- they're enhanced by large, puffy, toasted sub-type rolls.

My favorite banh mi was loaded with Roasted Pork Belly, the characteristically succulent meat enriched by house pâté, house mayo and umami-bolstering Maggi sauce. In classic fashion, these components play off fresh cucumber, cilantro, jalapenos, fish sauce and pickled vegetables.

Prefer a meatless banh mi? Tot's tofu sub with two crisp, sweet-and-savory, marinated-and-fried, bean curd slabs and the same garnishes - minus the pâté - earns a thumbs up.

Of course, Tot offers pho, and the two I tried were solid. Unsurprisingly for this place, the paper-thin "tri-tip" steak ($8) and chicken versions score high in the tender meat department - especially the standout beef.

Both broths derive flavor from star anise and are well-constructed, if light. Forced to choose, I'd give the edge to the marginally meatier chicken broth.

Pho flavor boosters can arrive via piquant house hot sauce, house green sauce (think scallion pesto) and the usual battery of pho condiments that include sriracha and hoisin sauces. More oomph is served on what Le calls a "charger plate," which offers the expected add-ons of mint, jalapeno, Thai basil, bean sprouts and limes.

Tot's focused menu showcases another Vietnamese staple: rice noodle salads, which Tot calls "combun" (jasmine rice can be substituted for vermicelli). Once again, expertly seared meat - in my bowl, it was a boatload of addictive grilled pork ($7.50) - distinguishes the pleasant melange, which includes most of the ingredients in the Firecracker Salad.

Rhyming Vietnam with "noms" might be a groan-inducing pun, but when combined with "tot" - which means "good" - it forms a title that nicely captures an establishment intent on staying true to its Vietnamese roots while accommodating novices to the cuisine. That and "tot" deals are reason enough to visit this welcome new eatery.

Correction: This article was updated to correct the spelling of owner Khanh Le's name