I promised to get the ball rolling on our commentary about yesterday afternoon's excellent Huong Viet repast.
Our intrepid organizer and Huong Viet regular elyhthak had to bow out at the last moment due to an inconveniently timed last-minute meeting. She sent us the following recommendations:
Here's some must orders: any of the Thit Nuong dishes or Bo Nuong Sa dishes. And if you can figure out a good way to share them, the noodle dishes are fantastic, particularly Hu Tieu Dac Biet, and the Bun Mang Vit.
8 of us assembled and utter chaos ensued as we attempted to decide on a menu. After checking the carry-out menu that accompanied me home, we had the following:
Goi cuon (garden roll)
Very good, among the best I've had in the area. For me, it is the inclusion of some cilantro and mint that makes for a stand-out garden roll.
Goi ngo sen tom thit-the "House special lotus rotless salad with pork and shrimp.": We'd had this same dish several weeks prior at Van's. These are different interpetations, and I prefered this one thanks to the increased percentage of lotus root and the inclusion of fresh mint in the mix. And we all agreed, it was definitely "rotless" as the menus stated. I'm guessing that was supposed to be "rootlets." One place where Van's had the edge-the accompanying shrimp chip garnish is a bit lighter and tastier there. This is a must-try dish for anyone who is looking to add some veggies to their meal. It is light with an interesting flavor and texture. And it's a darned good thing we took the waiter's suggestion and got two of them.
Ech Chien Bo (butter fried froglegs): This was an absolute standout. The frog legs were coated in a very thin dusting of flour and graced with a heavy coating of minced garlic with salt. If you know someone who is frog-curious but a bit frightened, this would be the place to take them. We actually had to double-check the menu to identify the "mystery taste" that was enhancing the garlic/salt mixture. That would be the butter, not exactly a familiar taste in Asian cuisines.
Ca Kho To (caramel fish in hot pot): This was another straight-on comparison to Van's. I would say that the fish was a bit plumper and softer at Huong Viet. Very tasty.
Muc Xao Sa Ot (caramel squid with chili and lemongrass) This dish was a stir fry rather than another clay pot dish. I'd say it was the least interesting of the bunch, although it did spark a conversation about whether squid was a pure texture food without much taste of its own.
Rau Muong Xao Toi (water cress with garlic sauce): This was very tasty, and perhaps a bit less oily than I've had it at places like Fortune.
Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio (grilled pork with funny noodle & spring roll): Every Vietnamese place I've been too offers this and I always think of it as the equivalent of a lunch special. The pork was very good; one of the two lucky people who snagged the cha gio halves will have to comment about that. This was our waiter's suggestion; he poo-pooed the item above it on the menu whih was the Bun Mang Vit (bamboo soup with duck and cole slaw) that elyhthak had recommended. He said "Vietnamese people don't like it."
We finished with an extra order of two noodle dishes, which I believe were the Mi Xao Don Do Bien (seafood pan fried crispy noodle) and the Hu Tieu Xao Bo (beef stir-fried with flat rice noodle and mixed vegetables). Both were good; the latter was very much like a particularly good rendition of beef chow foon.
I am missing the ID on two other dishes--the tofu stirfry and the wonderful fish soup with ocra. Anyone?
One other note: The ladies room was reasonably clean, although the floor could have used a very thorough mopping to remove grime. Sad to say, some of our otherwise wonderful international restaurants in the area have bathrooms that are downright frightening.