Huong Viet: #8

Shrimp Cake

“Trust me, you don’t want that,” says a cheerful (presumptuous!) waiter inside Eden Center’s Huong Viet. Not only do we want #8, but it’s the Best Thing on the Menu. Cue Iggy Azalea because #8, or “BÁNH CỐNG,” translates to “fancy fried shrimp cake.”  Three billiards-sized balls arrive at the table with what looks like fossilized shrimp skeletons on top. Is this what he thought would freak us out? Puh-lease. One bite of fish funnel cake and we were smitten.

As with most dishes at Huong Viet, the appetizer comes with the holy trinity of Vietnamese cuisine: Mint, cilantro and fish sauce. Lettuce is also provided so you can tear off bite-sized fried fragments and wrap them up like Christmas presents you can’t wait for your significant other to open. The black bits are mung beans, which add a touch of sweetness. 

BÚN

We got no inquiries or protest upon ordering #71 or “BÚN THỊT NƯỚNG CHÃ GIÒ.”  That’s because other than PHỞ and BÁNH MÌ, BÚN is one of the most commonly consumed Vietnamese dishes by Americans on ethnic eating adventures.

Silky rice vermicelli noodles rest on lettuce and fresh herbs. On top, super smoky grilled pork dances with grated carrots, scallions, crushed peanuts and spring rolls. Obviously, the dish requires a generous drizzle of fish sauce pre-consumption. But remember, the only thing worse than spilling fish sauce on your clothes is locking your keys in your car at an amusement park while babysitting eight-year-old twin boys.

After dining at Huong Viet, or one of the many Vietnamese eateries in Eden Center (Virginia), be sure to pop into some bakeries and delis to load up on treats to take home. Just about anything with sticky rice will do.

#8 not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Doi Moi: Bun Bo Xao

Bun Bo Xao

Doi Moi is transformative in that it takes you to a different land. This land has exotic herbs, undiscovered textures and the commingling of sweet, spicy, salty and sour flavors. The Best Thing on the Menu: Bun Bo Xao Stir Fried Lemongrass Beef on Vermicelli Noodles, served with cucumbers, pickled carrot, daikon, fragrant herbs, fried garlic, nouc cham and scallion oil, features all of these far-off-land characteristics. We recommend ordering two of this dish if you are dining in a party of three or four. Bun Bo Xao carries the “phet” label, which means spicy, not to be confused with the word “phat” that still haunts us from the late 90s. So, if you like heat, look for the “phet” and “mak phet” menu icons.

There are two ways to do it up at Mark Kuller and Haidar Karoum’s Doi Moi. To determine which option best suits you, we invite you to take Best Thing on the Menu’s very first personality quiz.

DC Diner A: Are you a planner? Do you get patted on the back during performance reviews for being super organized? Do you schedule your haircuts for an entire year at once? Do you always get your oil changed on time?

or

DC Diner B:  Do you like surprises? Do you live on the edge? Do you consider waiting in line at Little Serow all a part of the experience? Do you set out for an unplanned evening of exploring neighborhood bars? Do you buy lunch every day because you can’t be bothered to plan ahead?

If you identify more with DC Diner A, we recommend using OpenTable to make a Doi Moi reservation. They take reservations at 5:30pm and 6:00pm, much like their sister restaurant Estadio has done for years. You’ll feel great committing, and a table will be waiting for you. Alternatively, if you identify more closely with Diner B, live dangerously and arrive at Doi Moi at a time of your choosing. Sure, it’ll be a zoo (for good reason, the food is fantastic) but you’ll have all the time in the world to sip tropical cocktails and admire the decor. Anticipation will continue to build as you wait and wait for a table.

In addition to the BTM, we recommend other standouts including the Charred Eggplant with Poached Shrimp (Yum Makuah), Crispy Pork and Shrimp Spring Rolls (Por Pia Tod) and absolutely, without question, the must-order fried bananas dessert (Gluoy Kak). Those who are hungry and aren’t on board with the small plates scene would be best served by ordering the LTOM (Largest Thing on the Menu): Lemongrass and Spice Roasted Half Chicken. Click here for more photos of Doi Moi dishes.

One last tip, Doi Moi finally added their menu to their website so you can take a gander before you dine. Plus check out their vegan and gluten free menu!

Bun Bo Xao not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

If you liked this, you may also like: Rice, Little Serow or Estadio.