nhim_map's Profile

Title Last Reply

Seeking Authenic Vietnamese Dinner in MD

That is probably the case. By the way I've just visited Minh's in Arlington last weekend and it was a great meal. Everyone should give them a try.

Hai Duong Chowlunch Report

I'm most certain Pickled Fish Soup is Bun Mam in Vietnamese. "mam" in Vietnam is generally seafood preserved with salt, not pickled (which has acid involves, i believe).
The fish is Snake Head Fish, a popular Mekong Delta spieces, the product is called "mam ca loc" if you'd like to find them in a market.
Bun mam is a as typical to Southern Vietnamese as Pho to Northern Vietnamese and Bun Bo Hue to the Central region, it is also one of my favorite noodle soups. I'd say this is a rather adventurous dish for a foreigner to try, and it is a acquired taste, even for us. Without the proper veggies mixture on the side, i would not enjoy it as much.
Kudos to you for being able to accept it with grace, even though clearly it didn't make you favorite list.
Have you tried Canh Chua Ca' (fish sweet and sour soup) at Huong Viet? It is by far my favorite canh chua in all NoVa.

Banh cuon/"vietnamese ravioli"

best Banh Cuon place at Eden is Banh Cuon Thang Long, take the door nearest to the old "liquidation store". The door is flanked by a Nail supply store and a jewelry store. walk in side and banh cuon Thang Long is on your right near the end of the hallway.

Seeking Authenic Vietnamese Dinner in MD

As someone who also grew up on Vietnamese food in Vietnam, and also have eaten Vietnamese food all over CA and Northern VA, I'd still think Present not only gives me the best tasting food, but also the most authentic. There will always be hits and misses, and I do hope I never get to eat the chewy beef you were served.
About Vegetarian dishes, they have a few which are basically mixed veggies and tofu in different sauces, please pass, it's not their specialty. You can find much better Vegetarian Vietnamese food at the carry out places in Eden Center not too far away, hope you'll like them.
Who says Vietnamese coffee is not supposed to be shaken??? LOL, they even make a special tool to make thick coffee foam in Vietnam, pay a little attention at most Vietnamese coffee vendor and you'll see - I wish they thought of the shaker, which is much faster and more efficient. And the coffee, it is THE BEST Vietnamese coffee to my taste, since I hate the coffee and chicory in the golden boxes all other Vietnamese restaurants in NoVa use. Present actually uses Trung Nguyen coffee, the best coffee brand in Vietnam to date.

Note: Huong Viet restaurant is on par with Present when it comes to authenticcally good food. However, Huong Viet is offers mostly family meals, where Present does have a better "restaurant" menu in Vietnamese standard. But I have seen no restaurant in the US that could actually show case the higher Vietnamese cuisine offered in many Vietnamese restaurants in Saigon.

Present, new Vietnamese in Falls Church

Well after 2 months I finally came to the famous Four Sisters' new location. The interior is very nice, a big step up from other Vietnamese restaurants.
The menu was a little disappointing, given all the hype about this place being one of the best Vietnamese restaurants of NoVa. Not bad food, just boring food. An equivalent of a Ruby Tuesday's menu ( sorry Ruby Tuesday fans, but I doubt that there are any in here)...

For the purpose of a comparison to Present just more than a mile away, I ordered:

1. Goi Ngo Sen: lotus roots salads -- Their papaya salad is served with pork and shrimp ---> which means no yummy beef jerky or spicy dressing.. I'll pass

2. Hen Xuc Banh Da: baby clams (Smokey Petal at Present)
3. Bo Luc Lac: "Shaky Beef" or stir fried beef cubes
4. Mi Xao Don: Crispy egg noodles with stir fried seafood.

1. Goi Ngo Sen: Solid salad with plenty of lotus roots, pork, peanuts, mint, and cilantro. Some more shrimp would be nice, but it is a good salad, anyway.

2. Hen xuc banh da: if you happen to dine at Four Sisters, STAY AWAY from this dish. Well it isn't bad, it's just a bad impostor of the stir fried baby clams I've had so nay times in Saigon. Shredded boiled pork belly stir fried with baby clam and cilantro??? Oh come on, even the seasoning is wrong, where's lemongrass and Vietnamese coriander (rau ram)??? I was very dissapointed.

3. Bo luc lac: Very very very good, I tell you, very good. I have not had "shaky beef" this good in a while. Please order it here anytime you have a chance.

4. Mi Xao Don: Fish cakes do not belong to Vietnamese food, please leave them out!!! They'll just make you food look cheaper, and frankly, taste worse. I don't know what's wrong with the chef at Four Sisters when he/ she made this dish. The sauce, though well seasoned, lacks depth. NO!!!

Service was mediocre at best. The server saw us 4 times: taking appetizer and drink orders, then came back with a "are you ready!!!" for entree, then picked up our plates and lastly, to drop off the check. Not even a water refill.

Well, I'll probably come back to this place again sometimes to try their other dishes, but for now, Present and Saigon Cafe are still on top.

Present, new Vietnamese in Falls Church

Basic flavors of mien xao cua is garlic, chives, oyster sauce, soy sauce, green onions. Depends on what type of crabs you use, the dish will come out different.

Present, new Vietnamese in Falls Church

Since this is one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants here in NoVa, I'd like to help defend the folks at Present.

The baby clam dish is prepare exactly how it should be in Saigon, Vietnam. It's unfortunate you did not like it very much, but Vietnamese food is a lot more than just herbs and lettuce.

As for Banh Xeo... The crepe and the fillings are not supposed to be seasoned. If you think the fish sauce is watered down too much, ask for pure fish sauce. Nine Vietnamese will have ten different opinions about that same fish sauce, it is a delicate task to prepare a fish sauce that could accommodate as much diners as you would like. However, part of the Vietnamese cuisine experience is that you add your own touch to the food, so, again, ask for more condiments to complete your food the way you like it.

Present, new Vietnamese in Falls Church

Check out Huong Viet as well...

Best Pho in DC/NoVA?

In the Spirit of the Pho Force, check this guy out... He is one heck of a Pho fan


Present, new Vietnamese in Falls Church

I'm glad you like the duck soup, now that you mentioned it, I want some!!!

Did I mention the clam dish have beef? What I usually taste from it is (oif course) clam, fish sauce, pepper, Thai basil, cilantro, beef, onion... anything familiar to what you tasted?

Best Pho in DC/NoVA?

Just discussed Pho with a buddy today, He mentioned Pho Golden Cow, asserting that they have the best Pho broth out of all places. They have 2 locations, one across the street from Loehman's Plaze on Rt 50, one is next to CVS across the street from Target - Bailey's crossroad (jefferson street). I have never tried either one, but it sounds promising.

Best Pho in DC/NoVA?

I have not heard of "streching" the stock , but I do know at some pho places, the owner/ cook occasionally use beef bullion and pre-packed "pho flavor" cubes, which creates inconsistency, and sometimes just plain bad broth. They do make some extra bucks doing things that way, since it saves time and labor (Pho broth takes no less than 5 hours to complete) and some ingredients. I have not notice inconsistency in Pho Xe Lua, and hopefully they'll stay that way.
Pho Hot Annandale is ok for a quick bite, The majority of their customers are not Vietnamese, but rather Korean and Hispanic, so their "Pho" taste like good soup, not good Pho.

Pho Hoa's broth is better than Pho Hot as far as "Pho" broth goes, but would it be good for your taste? I'd leave it for you to judge.

I do prefer Pho broth with stronger flavor of anise, cinnamon, ginger, and onion. One thing could help bring out the flavor of a weak broth is Fish Sauce (not Hoisin Sauce) and a little lime juice.

If you end up in a Pho shop that makes weaker broth, order flank and fatty flank to compensate for lack of flavor, since the "beefy" flavor in Pho broth comes mainly from cooking these parts.

Hope this help.

Really good restaurant with a reasonable wine list in DC

Any particular kind of cuisine???

I'm Vietnamese and the best place to get Vietnamese food with a decent wine list is Present in Falls Church. All their wines are 89 and above, the manager is very enthusiastic when it comes to pairing Vietnamese food and Wine. Last time I was there the owner of S.A. Prum Winery actually had a meal there and suggested some good Germany wine.

Looking for restaurant suggestions in the Falls Church Area

Ask for the crispy Jumbo Shrimp and the asparagus and crab soup. Those two dishes are so simple but the quality is hard to beat.

Best Pho in DC/NoVA?

The Pho shop next to Viet Royal is " Pho Xe Lua", where "Xe Lua" Stands for train. They serve one of the most authentic broth I have tried so far in America, and is my number one Pho shop. They have something other Pho shops don't have that is Shanks, which in Vietnamese is called "Bap Bo". Shanks are virtually non-existent if you go to a Shouthern Vietnamese Pho shop, while it is popular with Northern Vietnamese. Shanks has tendons (I don't know the precise term) running in between the lean muscle and makes the cross cut of the piece of meat look similar to a turtle's shell --- They're also call "bap rua", or turtle muscle, in Vietnamese (Northern Vietnamese only, most people form the South wont know wha it is, and they tend to get confused ). You get a whole different texture when eating shanks since they are both chewy and tender at the same time. Its beefy flavor is also more intense than other cuts.

If you want to try "Bap Bo", write it down and give it to the servers since non of them speak English well.

The "saw leaf" is called culantro, used commonly in Vietnamese cooking, and in Central and South American cooking as well. They could be found in most Korean Markets and the grocery in Eden. Simply ask for more "veggie" if you like more, they might or might not charge extra, but having Thai Basil and Culantro in the soup is essential to its full flavor.
I notice some Pho fans religiously add an enourmous amount of the hoisin sauce into their soup. I personally appreciate the broth by itself, hoisin sauce is simply an enhancer; adding to much of the sauce, I think, will destroy the true Pho experience. However, this is a matter of personal taste.
My second Pho shop is Pho Hoa in Annandale, this is a large franchise and their broth rivals Pho Xe Lua.

If you order Pho take out, try this at home: "Pho burger"
At home, chop up a teaspoon of fresh ginger, chop as fine as possible, or use the food processor if you prefer. Get some fresh ground beef (3 - 6 oz), mix them with the ginner, and make a patty of no more than 1/4 inch think, put aside. Put all you noodle and toppings in bowl, boil your broth and poor over them, wait for about 10 seconds then strain the broth back into pot and bring to boil again. This is to heat up the entire contents of the soup (using microwave spares you from the mess from pouring hot liquid around). place the patty into the soup bowl (on top of noodles and everything else), then pour the boiling soup into bowl.
What you get is a medium rare to medium beef patty to enjoy with Pho. Repeat steps above if you want to patty to be cooked more, but medium should be max.

Is this an American twist to Pho? Nope, this is fully Vietnamese, and Northern Vietnamese that is. However, Southern Vietnamese Pho shops in Saigon do offer them as well. For some reasons I've never found them in any Pho shops here in DC metro area, even though they are delicious and easy to do.

Hope you'll Enjoy pho Xe Lua, pho Hoa and "Pho burger", but in the end it is you who decide which restaurant is your favourite.

Saigon Cafe - Central Vietnamese Cuisine

Sorry I haven't been back on Chowhound in a while. I've just posted a review on Present. Next time I'll list all my favorites. Enjoy your "present" for now!!!

Present, new Vietnamese in Falls Church

I have never been to Minh, but Four Sister left me with one of the worst Mi Vit Tiem (Duck Noodle Soup) I've ever had, and I have never came back there again. I do agree with hueman that to take Four Sister as the "Measuring Stick" is not a fair comparison. Giving Four Sister's reputation as one of the oldest Vietnamese restaurant on the East Coast, I'd say they've created their own "Vietnamese Cuisine Standard" to the locals, most of whom have never been to Vietnam --- which means they have no idea what Vietnamese food really taste like. On the other hand, cooking Vietnamese food to satisfy Vietnamese is a tremendously challenging task, since its cuisine varies from region to region, some of which is only several miles away. The variety of each dish in each location become its own standard of authenticity. With the Majority of Vietnamese in NoVa area being Southern Vietnamese, Southern Vietnamese cuisine's flavor profile became prominent over time. If you've been to Hanoi or Hue/ Danang and actually eat foods in the markets/ from street vendors... you'll see the difference.

I had several dishes at Present, some were authentic and excellent, some were ok since there was a strong influence of Chinese and Southern Vietnamese cuisine in the Chef's creations. I had a pleasure of speaking with the owner and found out where Chef Luong Tran came from. one of his previous restaurant was an upscale establishment in District 1, Saigon, "Mandarin", a place where I personally know --- I grew up in Vietnam and came to US in 2004. My fanily's restaurant is 1 block away, where we serve mainly Northern Vietnamese cuisine.

What I'd recommend:

Com Suon Bi Cha (similar to broken rice with grill pork chop in Eden)
--- The piece of pork chop - the center of this dish - is thick and well marinated with hints of lemongrass - which is missing from both Thanh Truc and Com Tam Saigon in Eden, juicy and tender, call for some "pure" fish sauce if you find the accompanying sauce being a little too light. This is an authentic Southern Vietnamese dish.

Mi Vit Tiem - Egg noddle soup with duck --- Chinese influence noddle soup
--- Better than the recent Hai Ky My Gia (a noddle house) in Eden, and to let you know that Hai Ky Mi Gia gained their popularity through Mi Vit Tiem.

Banh Xeo (Saigon Pancake/ Crepe....)
--- This is not an egg batter, fyi, the color comes from turmeric, a popular Vietnamese marinade and food coloring agent, and it's a beer batter, so the crepe smells and taste much better than those mixed from water. The lettuce and herbs are fresh plenty - this is what separates good Vietnamese restaurants from bad ones. This dish rivals the best pancake houses in Saigon, Vietnam (Yes, there are places in Saigon only serve this one dish)

Whole Rockfish
--- Either steamed or fried, they're best eaten with steamed rice. ask for the side of rice wrapping and veggies to kick it up a notch (addtional $5). Instead of steamed rice, you'll make your own "taco" from rice paper, lettuce, herbs, noodles, fish. This is TRUE Southern Vietnamese style of eating Whole Fish. There's a grill version - which is popular in Southern Vietnamese Countryside, but I haven't seen any restaurant having it.

Hen Xuc Banh Da (smokey petal on their menu)

--- One of the best I've had, fresh and spicy, a great way to start out your meal.

Mien Xao Cua (Mosaic Pathway)

---This is a Northern Vietnamese dish - something I'm very familiar with and among my all time favorites. Present's take on this dish is very very Southern, yet very flavorful and it became my number one favorite of their entire menu -- although it is NOT authentic. They use good quality - real jumbo lump - crab meat, and the Chef makes it quite spicy - which I like, so you might want to ask them to tone down the heat a little if you're not a fan of pepper.

What seems to be missing from Present's Menu is Hot Pot - which you could find in Viet Bistro, Eden Center. Hot Pot meals are very popular in Vietnamese cuisine, especially for dining out. I hope they'll have some in the future.

I'll come back to Present some more and see if I could find anything else worth mention. Perhaps I could visit the new Four Sister sometimes and do a comparison.

Saigon Cafe - Central Vietnamese Cuisine

Hi Guys,

This is my first post in Chowhound and I'd like to introduce my favorite Vietnamese Restaurant in NoVa area --- Saigon Cafe

Apart from its very generic names, Saigon Cafe does have some excellent dishes on the menu and the dining room has a warm and casual atmosphere, which is completely different from many other Vietnamese restaurant across Wilson Blvd in Eden Center.

Vietnamese cuisine could be divided in 3 parts, Northern, Central, and Southern Vietnamese. What most of us have been enjoying for a long time here in NoVa are Central and Southern Vietnamese cuisine, with Pho as an exception. However, only Southern Vietnamese food made it to restaurants, where Hue' food are mainly sold at Vietnamese Deli, ex: Song Que, Huong Binh... in Eden Center and several other places, which I think is a big mistake.

So... I was a great day for me when my boss took me to Saigon Cafe, I never noticed the place since it used to be a crappy Pho restaurant. I was so fed up with the genetic offerings from numerous Vietnamese restaurant around the area, since I was born in Saigon and only came to the US 6 years ago. I thought finally this place might introduce something new about Vietnamese Cuisine to the locals.

Try all the rice cakes at Saigon Cafe, some might become your favorites, some might not, but definitely ask for "Banh Beo Chen". These are freshly steamed rice cakes (or dumplings??) serve right in their ceramic molds, topped with shredded dried shrimp and "mo hanh" ( green onions cooked in hot oil), serve aside with fish sauce. Despite being a simple dish, Banh Beo Chen at Saigon cafe is very delicious and surprisingly better than some I have had back home.

Bun Bo Hue - thick round rice noodles in Beef Broth. This is the "Pho" of Central Vietnam. Many ingredients from Bun Bo Hue are similar with Pho, but the extra lemongrass, shrimp paste, chilli peper, and colorings (a special red oil) give it a whole new character. The protein in this dish is a lot different than Pho as well. While Pho is topped with a variety of steaks, flanks, tendon.... Bun Bo Hue calls for shanks. These are the "biceps" of the cows and other parts that have similar texture, after being cooked for a long time, they become tender yet there's still a distinctive "chewyness" to them - no worries you wont hurt your mouth eating it.
Along with the shank cuts, you might get a small cut of pork leg, these are mainly skin and fat, ask your server to leave them out if you're not used to this type of texture. Many places serve Bun Bo Hue, but none achieve such balance in spices and flavoring such as Saigon Cafe.

Jack Fruit and baby clams salad, great texture, light flavor, definitely a good starter, but be careful if you're not the adventurous type.

The Hue Style Crepe (or pancake), I'm sorry I totally forgot how it's called in English. But the dish is their newest addition and is taped to the back side of the front cover If I'm not mistaken. It's call "Bank Khoai" in Vietnamese. It's somewhat similar to Vietnamese pancakes (Banh Xeo) you might have tried, but with a thicker shell, slightly different filling, and a completely different dipping sauce. Try it to love it !!!

I have other favorites, too, but I'd let you find out for your self.

By the way, their price is moderately low and service is ok.