A group of about 10 or so of us convened at Viet Royale for an early lunch (starting at 11:00 in the hope of avoiding chaos in the Eden Center parking lot--while parking was not too bad, getting out of there at 12:30 or so was a bit less serene). Polly G took the lead in ordering, having brought with her recommendations from a Vietnamese friend, though a few other additions were made to afford a comparison with Huong Viet and Ly Ly, both of which had outstanding dishes of which people wanted to check the VR version.
We started with four cold dishes:
#3. Shrimp & Shredded Pork Fresh Garden Roll
#8. Shrimp & Pork with Lotus Roots Salad
#10. Green Papaya Salad with Beef Jerky
#19. Sauteed Baby Clams with Black Sesame Rice Paper
Then we had the entrees:
#51. Shaky Beef
#57. Caramel Fish in Hot Pot
#78. Butter Fried Frog Legs (at the urging of the 5-yr old Chowpup in attendance)
#87. Clams in Black Bean Sauce
#95. Stir Fried Conch in XO Sauce
#116. Seafood Pan Fried Crispy Noodle
We did not order any 'bad' dishes; everything was at least as good as anything else I have had in the area, though I remain fairly resolute in my opion that garden rolls are garden rolls, and there is not much variation among different renditions. However the three other cold dishes were pretty much revelatory, with really vibrant flavors and interesting contrasts. The clams in particular were great, served as they are with these enormous fried rice cakes (paper is a misnomer on the menu) that you use to scoop up the dish.
I did not particulary care for the shaky beef, since it had little flavor and was rather dry. The version I had once recently in San Francisco's Slanted Door (and that I made for myself previously, following the chef's recipe published in the NY Times) was far superior. This was my first time having frogs' legs, and I thought they were great, though those who have had them at Huong Viet pronounced those superior. Many did not care for the conch, though I did--I just love XO sauce! The noodles were very nice, though a bit Cantonese-y for me. The fish and the clams (which are also pretty Cantonese-y, but in a good way for me) were my favorites. The fish in particular was great, since it had a really luxurious sauce that made the fish almost shine, and the contrast between the slightly crispy exterior and the smooth, creamy interior of the fish was very intriguing.
The price was reasonable, too. We had more than enough to eat, and still managed only to spend $16 per person.