We took the in-laws and chowpup to 4 Sisters in the Eden Center. This was a spur-of-the moment decision as we'd been thinking Viet Royal or Huong Viet until about 30 seconds before stepping into the plaza.
I know that 4 Sisters has been viewed with some skepticism on this board in the past because it gets touted by the non-Vietnamese press. Vietnamese restaurants that rely on a largely non-Vietnamese clientele tend to start dumbing down the food.
We were pleasantly surprised by 4 Sisters. The menu is a lot more limited than Huong Viet or Viet Royal. It does feature two different sets of suggested family meals, one with a seafood emphasis. There are several options on each family meal and we chose the 4 person meal, plus an order of garden rolls.
The garden rolls, lotus rootlet salad, and cha gio arrived simultaneously. The garden rolls included mint and garlic chives and were close to what Ba Le in Rockville used to do when the right person was in the kitchen. The cha gio were exceptionally oil-free and the filling was lightly packed rather than the dense consistency some places use. The lotus rootlet salad was very heavy on the lotus rootlets and could have used a bit more mint, cilantro, and basil to set off the light vinegar dressing. It was still very good, but I've had better. Incidentally, this is a wonderful dish to order for people who are new to Vietnamese food; it really helps show off how light the cuisine can be.
Our shrimp tamarind soup, carmalized catfish, garlic-braised watercress, and lemongrass pork arrived together, along with a very generous serving of rice. (Our usual experience at Vietnamese places is that things come out as they're prepared.) The tamarind soup was the disappointment of the evening. It wasn't bad, but the balance between sour and sweet seemed too far on the sweet side. The carmalized catfish was in moderately thick chunks and not cloyingly sweet. The lemongrass pork was about average, which is to say delicious. The kitchen did fail to cut one big chunk of it into bite-sized pieces, which was a bit awkward. The garlic-braised watercress was excellent and much less greasy than Chinese versions of the dish.
A big platter of orange slices ended the meal.
On the whole, everything was competently prepared, but with the possible exception of the watercress, I have had as good or better versions of every dish elsewhere. The interior is bright and definitely a bit more upscale than Viet Royal or Huong Viet. While the cheery pink tablecloths are plastic, the napkins are cloth. This may indeed be the right place to bring people who have never had Vietnamese food and are afraid of dives with fantastic food.
The total for the 5 of us, including 3 salty lemon drinks but no alcohol, was about $75, pre tip. We arrived around 5:30; by our 7 pm departure, the place was nearly full. From what I could see, the tables were about 50/50 Vietnamese/other. It also appeared that many of the other tables around us were using the family meal menu as their guide.
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