Trilingual Order

I have been lunching at Eden way too often lately. I am way too lazy to pack my salad, but I have no problem walking out to the freezing temperature and driving to Eden Center for food. Hai Ky Mi Gia’s bun mam (vermicelli with salted fish sauce) and bun bo hue (spicy beef noodle soup) for five dollars are bowl are just too damn irresistible.

Last Friday, I came back to the office and I smelled like, well, fermented fish sauce and durian. It had to be one of the worst combinations of Vietnamese best food and horrible smells. Luckily no one else was in the office.

Today I dropped by Rice Paper for a huge plate of com tam dac biet (broken rice special). It was not that great, but it sure filled me up. Should have headed straight back to work, but no, I have to have my durian smooth. So I went to Kim Phung Bakery to cop one. I told the lady what I wanted and she told her Mexican worker, “Uno sau rieng no bubble.” I was like, wow, she made an order in three languages.

Rice Paper and Vy Bistro

Eden Center has sprung up two new, slightly upscale Vietnamese restaurants: Rice Paper and Vy Bistro. Unlike most eatery places in Eden that focused mostly on the food, these two paid some attention to decoration and presentation as well. The interior design is simpler and more modern. The plates and dishes aren’t like the one you can buy in a Vietnamese grocery store in the same strip.

The problem is that their menus aren’t too different from the rest of the places. Vy Bistro doesn’t offer anything unique. The waiter asked us if it was our first time there and he recommended bun bo Hue (Hue’s vermicelli soup) as one of its highlights so I ordered it. The soup, which was not piping hot, didn’t stand out. The portion was a bit small compared to other places around Eden Center.

Rice Paper does have a few unique dishes like the delicious appetizer Oc Len Xao Dua (Snails cooked in coconut milk). I also had Com Bo Luc Lac (Rice With Shaking Beef), but not that impressive. The beef is a bit overcooked. The service here needs some improvements though.

Eden In the Center

One of the perks of working closed to Eden Center is quite obviously for a food addict like me. For instance, I didn’t feel like having salad with grilled chicken for five days in a row, I drove seven minutes to Eden for a bowl of goat curry goat with noodle and a bottle of Bia 33 at Lacay. Before heading back to the office, I dropped by Song Que to pick up an avocado shake with boba. What can I say? It’s my Friday treat.

Goat curry at Lacay is like hamburger for me. I have to have it once in a while even though I feel extremely bloated and awful afterward and promise myself to have only once a year. Actually one of my New Year resolutions is to eat for one person instead of three. I haven’t been able to do so yet because I am on lunar calender. I have a couple more days to go before starting my resolution.

It seems as if the more I try to cut back on food the more I just wanted to eat and having convenient access to Eden only makes things worse. For example, I take Wilson Boulevard home everyday and everyday I get stuck in traffic right in front of Eden. I stare at the place and I could hear the voice in my head saying, “What the heck are you waiting for? Come one in.” So I bust a right and head straight to Thanh Son for fresh fried tofu. If I lucky I would catch the fresh batch right off the frying pan. The hot, slightly spicy with lemongrass flavor is just heaven sent.

The other day I met up with my wife and her sister for lunch and I suggested that we try out Rice Paper, a fairly new opening. It’s a bit upscale comparing to most joints in Eden, but what caught my attention was one of its appetizers dish: Oc Len Xao Dua (Snails cooked in coconut milk). I haven’t have this dish for so long. When I went back to Viet Nam about a decide ago, I used to take a nap in the afternoon just like everyone else. Around three thirty or four in the afternoon, I would hear a chanting from the street, “Ai an oc len xao dua khong?” (Who want snails cooked in coconut milk?) And every afternoon, I would order a dish. They were so good that I joked with the lady who sells the snails that I’ll have to married someone who can cook this dish for me as good as she does. She blushed.

Donny’s Limonata and Peach Iced Tea

Two new mix drinks I created this week I really dig. They both are simple to make and yet quite delightful.

Donny’s Limonata:
3oz Appleton White Jamaica Rum
6oz Sanpellegrino Limonata (sparkling lemon beverage)
1oz simple syrup

Pour rum into a highball filled with ice. Add sparkling lemon beverage. Stir. Garnish with some chopped fresh mint leaves. Voila.

Donny’s Peach Iced Tea:
4oz Popeye’s Cane Sweeeet™ Iced Tea
4oz Hiram Walker Peach Flavored Schnapps

Pour iced tea into a highball filled with ice. Add peach flavored Schnapps. Stir. Garnish with a slice of peach in the drink. Enjoy.

Eating Around Fairfax

We eat out at least once a week and more if our sister-in-law doesn’t invite us over for dinner. These days we get home from work around seven in the evening and it is too late to cook and to clean up as well. Here are some of our recommended spots.

Cee Fine Thai Dining is roomy but cozy. One of my favorite dishes is the deep-fried pompano. Love the crunchiness and savory, sour and spice sauce. Its drunken noodle is very tasty as well. Even Dao enjoys eating here. The service is also very nice.

Vespucci Fine Italian Dining has excellent service. Loved the prime rib and the old screen theater that played Charlie Chaplin.

Havabite is a small, friendly family eatery. The folks are really nice. I had a nice, juicy burger with fries. The price is affordable; therefore, it is a perfect spot for a quick bite.

Eastwind is a new Vietnamese restaurant just opened up for business early this month. While the name is Eastwind, the banner on the front uses Western, cowboy typeface. At first I thought it was an old sign from the previous owner of the place. It really needs some help with selecting the typeface. Eastwind is started by a young Vietnamese business major. He seemed to make quite a bit of investment into the place. The place is surprisingly large. We had a short conversation with him and I wanted to make sure that he didn’t Americanized the taste for none-Vietnamese customers. We had Mi Xao Don Do Bien (Vietnamese Crispy Chow Mein with Seafood) and very pleased with it, but Com Tay Cam Do Bien (Seafood in Clay Pot) was just average. Dao was treated with fried banana with ice cream for free. The owner was very nice and I really do wish him success. Since this place is a bit closer to our house, it will be a perfect spot if we want Vietnamese food and too lazy too cook or to drive to Eden center.

More Burger Joints

I had two hamburgers this week. On Tuesday, I visited Bobby’s Burger Palace and ordered a classic and beer battered onion rings. The meat was moist and juicy, but lacked the flavor. I suppose a true classic doesn’t need any marination. The service was good and the place was packed after 12:30pm. The line was long and the price was decent.

Early today, we went to Dish for a farewell lunch. One of my co-workers is leaving GW. Of all the choices, I picked an angus beef burger. Yes, I know I am addicted to hamburger. The meat was just perfect and the size was not as big as Tonic’s so I didn’t feel so bloated after lunch. I also had a Chimay pale ale to complement the burger. Not bad at all.

Hu Tieu Mi La Cay Cho Lon

Hu Tieu Mi La Cay Cho Lon opened for a while now and bluntly scooped up customers from Hai Ky Mi Gia. I tried the house noodle soup a couple weeks after its grand opening, but was not impressed with it. I prefer Hai Ky’s broth over La Cay’s for the noodle soup.

A couple weeks ago we went back to La Cay and I decided to try the curry goat noodle. The curry is a bit salty, but I was hooked. The noodle was near perfect (not too soft and not too gummy) and the goat was spicy and savory. Last week I reordered it one more time with a bottle of Vietnamese Beer 33 and I loved the combination.

If you’re at La Cay the next time, skip the typical noodle soup that everyone orders and give curry goat noodle a try. Squeeze in some lime if the curry is too salty for you. Other than that, the bowl is off the hook.

Just realize that I haven’t written much about food and haven’t taken photos for quite a while. I hope to get back to posting more photos again.

The Adventurous Way of Enjoying Pho

Despite the pouring rain, our little family hit Pho 95, our only current favorite spot for hot Vietnamese noodle soup, as part of our Saturday morning ritual. What makes Pho 95 stands out is the wonderful fragrance of pho as soon as you open the door. Pho 95 is generous with meat and its noodle is just right (not too soft or overcooked), but the best part is that even after you finished your pho, the broth is still hot.

What makes pho unique is the customization. You can order pho according to your preference, but for an adventurous enjoyment, check out the following tips.

First you have to order a large size because that is the Vietnamese style. Only a buck more to upgrade to a large bowl. We love more for less. You can order the special with everything in it, but I prefer tendon, meatball with raw beef on the side. Add a side dish of fresh onion soaked in vinegar and a bowl of fat with scallion root.

When the soup comes out, add chilly sauce to the onion bowl depending how much you can tolerate the spiciness. Add chilly, hoisin sauce with pieces of basil into your raw dish. Squeeze lime into the raw beef as well to let it cook. With the bowl of fat, dump the whole thing into your pho if you don’t care about cholesterol. If you do, just two or three tablespoon is sufficient. Taste the broth and you can tell the tremendous different.

With your hot pho, put in bean sprouts and basil, but do not stir. The trick to keep the pho hot is not to disturb the noodle. Just take what you can eat at a time. Work gently into the noodle to prevent it from expanding. With raw beef, hot and sour rings of onion and fat-soaked scallion, that’s how you enjoy your pho.

Even with the pouring rain outside, people where standing in line to get into Pho 95. People must like to eat pho when it rains as if the wetness and the cold temperature make pho even more delicious. Another great part about Pho 95 is that it located right next to Banh Mi DC, my favorite spot for iced coffee. I happened to pick up a banh tieu (hollow bread) that was fresh off the stove. I let Dao tried a small piece and he wanted the whole thing. In the car, two little kids (Dao and Donny) were fighting over banh tieu. It was just awesome.

Ranking for Iced Coffee

The heat is rising; therefore, it is time to switch to iced coffee. Although, I am not an expert on coffee, I like to rank on the ones I have access to on a regular basis. So here is my list:

  1. Banh Mi D.C. Iced Coffee is number one on my list because I love the French-style brew. While there are tons of them around Eden Center, Banh Mi D.C.’s stands out for me for its strong, dark roast. I have to have a cup when I am on the road. It does a great job of keeping me up. If I have it my way, a bit less condense milk would be perfect.
  2. Iced Seattle’s Best Coffee from BK is my second choice. I prefer the plain one for less sweet. I can drink this at one in the morning and still be able to go to sleep because the coffee is light.
  3. Saxbys Iced Coffee would be my third for its dark and strong taste. I like its hazelnut-flavored brew. It has a nice, lasting after taste.
  4. Starbucks Iced Coffee isn’t so high on my list simply because I drink it almost every day. The flavor has become plain and ordinary. I just need it to get my caffeine fix.
  5. Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee used to be my favorite, but it is feeling light for me as well. Still a nice summer drink once in a while
  6. McDonald’s Iced Coffee would be my last resort if nothing’s around. It tastes more like cream and sugar with coffee flavor than the other way around.

Cava’s Harissa

Hot rice with Cava’s Harissa has been my favorite lunch whenever I don’t feel like packing meat. The spicy, tangy table condiment made of tomatoes and peppers is like the Greek version of Vietnamese fermented tofu. Thanks to Dana for introducing to me such a killer dip.

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