Van's Vietnamese Restaurant at 410 Elden Street in Herndon opened eight months ago. It has not been reviewed by anyone nor has it been previously mentioned on this board.
It is the best Vietnamese restaurant in the metropolitan Washington area.
This is a very plain almost storefront restaurant in a "nondescript suburban shopping center" which tastes like someone's grandmother is in the kitchen cooking. That is if the grandmother is Vietnamese and is the equal of any home cook in Saigon.
Van's has a "great dish" (a description I tend to reserve for Michelin starred restaurants in Europe as well as the clams in black bean sauce at Full Kee in Chinatown). On the menu it is number ten under "House Specials," Jumbo Shrimps in Ginger and Scallion Sauce. I swear the shrimp they used were fresh (although that seems virtually impossible in the D. C. area) but they were lightly battered and wok fried with an incredible dark ginger and scallion sauce. I actually moaned while taking my first bite of this. (Embarassed the hell out of my wife. Until she took her first bite and moaned also!)
Number 51 (out of approximately 120 choices along with several group dinners) is Deluxe Pan-fry, Crispy Rice Noodle Combination. These are rice noodles which are pan fried in such as way that they form what amounts to a crust literally similar in appearance to pot pie crust about 1/2 inch thick. They serve as the base for the "pot pie" filling which is ladled on top. This particular "pot pie" includes beef, shrimp, fresh mushrooms and sauce.
A note about vegetables, ginger, garlic, etc.: everything is fresh. Everything tastes, well, "pure" as if it has been chopped or minced only moments before cooking.
Singapore Noodles are number 13 under House Specials. Delicious, exemplery preparation. Under appetizers the Vietnamese Spring Roll is the best that I have ever had anywhere. We had several soups but I don't remember their names from the menu (about 15 or so are listed). They were wonderful.
Unbelievably this is also the best vlaue meal of any that I have found anywhere in the past several years. The pan fry noodle combination was $8.95, lemon grass and chili chicken was $6.95, pad Thai (did not have) $6.95, even the jumbo shrimp in scallion and ginger sauce was only $11.95 but tasted like it could have been $15.00 anywhere else.
Van's Vietnamese Restaurant. With all due respect to Four Sisters, Taste of Saigon and numerous others this sets the new standard by which Vietnamese restaurants are judged in the D. C. area. It also wins my vote for best ethnic restaurant (of any kind) in the entire metro area.
And the service was really friendly and helpful, too. Just remember it is very plain. Go for the food. And the adventure of exploring all 120 dishes they offer. I should also note that Milwaukee Frozen Custard is about to open a new store only two blocks away for dessert.
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