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Report: Nguyen's Deli, Herndon

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Report: Nguyen's Deli, Herndon

John Galt | Dec 4, 2003 07:33 PM

There are lots of promising signs here. An eager staff. The customers don't speak English. A no-frills decor. An ambitious menu ranging from familiar favorites (summer rolls) to exotic authentic dishes featuring entrails.

Neither of my two dishes, however, was great.

A "steamed dumpling" was really a steamed bun. It was a grapefruit-sized doughy ball stuffed with a tasty filling of sausage, pork, and hard-boiled egg. Not bad. Not great.

One of my litmus test dishes at Vietnamese restaurants is Ca Kho To -- caramelized catfish. This was not one of the world's great versions. The syrupy thick sauce was simultaneously cloying and bitter, displaying many of the dish's most common shortcomings. Also, it lacked black pepper, essential for balance. The catfish, itself, was pleasantly fatty (as, I think, it should be), but the flesh was tough and chewy, not fork-tender as I prefer it. A disappointing dish.

Nonetheless, there were so many promising signs, including a general chow-ish feel to the place, that I left feeling that the menu is worth exploring. So, I'll be back.

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