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Nam Viet/Pho 79 on Connecticut Ave

Missy Mar 18, 2009 11:57 AM

My older sister is planning a family supper there after a zoo trip this weekend. Does it suck? I'm scared......

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  1. Dennis S Mar 18, 2009 12:25 PM

    It's great. Clarendon location is better. Search the board for the NUMEROUS recs.

    My short list:
    - Cup of sweet spicy and sour salmon soup - as an appetizer
    - Curried squid (the secret is the squash that's in the sauce)

    Everything else I've had there is good, including a few of the steak dishes (the last one on the menu is really good). I've seen many order the whole red snapper, but I've not had it.

    Just curious as to why you're scared of it - wonder what left you with that impression?

    1. k
      kneelconqueso Mar 18, 2009 01:08 PM

      i had the pho there a few weeks ago. it was pretty terrible (i like the clarendon location's pho).

      but everything else was ok. and vietnamese restaurants in the district are hard to come by

      13 Replies
      1. re: kneelconqueso
        Dennis S Mar 18, 2009 02:08 PM

        I've had a taste of the pho at the Clarendon location. It was decent, but the rest of the menu outshines it easily.

        1. re: kneelconqueso
          cimui Jan 1, 2010 09:22 PM

          Had a quick bowl of pho at the CT Ave. location, today, and also found it mediocre: so-so (thin, uni-dimensional) broth, no variety of cuts available, meat too thickly sliced, no basil or other herbs offered with pho. It wasn't the worst pho I've ever had, just very unexciting, even by NYC standards (where I understand the pho scene is far weaker than it is in the DC area). Typical of this restaurant / not typical?

          1. re: cimui
            Dennis S Jan 2, 2010 04:12 AM

            First, they serve it N. Vietnamese style, so that's why you don't get the accompanying herbs, etc. Second, as mentioned in the other reply, go here for other things - they really excel at the rest of the menu, and (I think) serve pho out of a "need" to do so.

            Here's an excellent pho primer I've posted before:

            Now, go back and order the salmon soup and if you want an entree, get the curried squid, and see if you can tell me what the secret ingredient is to the entree (I know, but I'm not sharing that easily).

            1. re: Dennis S
              cimui Jan 2, 2010 06:46 AM

              I certainly don't want to discount the possibility that the restaurant does other things well, but am seeking comments on how the pho is compared to that at other DC restaurants to better gauge what the DC pho scene is like. Also, pho was the only dish I tried and, at the moment, wanted given certain events the evening before. Thanks for your comments.

              1. re: cimui
                sweth Jan 2, 2010 07:08 AM

                To answer your specific question, then: Nam Viet is in the "pretty mediocre" tier for pho in DC. Pho 75 is the local reliable standby if you want to test local pho in general, and there are tons of places out in the burbs that do a great bowl but opinions differ on which of those is best since everyone's ideal pho broth is a little different.

                1. re: sweth
                  cimui Jan 2, 2010 07:15 AM

                  Perfect, sweth! That's very helpful.

                2. re: cimui
                  Dennis S Jan 2, 2010 10:23 AM

                  I guess I thought that this had been addressed in March in the same thread. But yeah - I almost wish they didn't do pho there.

                  I was thinking along these general lines just last week. Pho Reston 75 (not tied to the Pho 75 chain) has a pretty full menu, but they rock the pho, and I haven't been wowed by anything else I've ever tried (not bad, but nothing like Nam Viet). I still need to try Minh's (not really for pho) and it's been awhile since I've taken in much - food wise - at Eden Center, but my question is one of a restaurant that does above average pho AND above average non-soup offerings.

                  Is that somewhat akin to your quest as well?

                  To answer the direct question you posed, the DC metro area does have a good number of good pho offerings. I don't think there are many in DC itself.

                  1. re: Dennis S
                    cimui Jan 2, 2010 03:53 PM

                    I appreciate that you're a diversified consumer of Vietnamese food, Dennis -- you clearly know a great deal about the cuisine -- and under normal circumstances, I do share your mission. But pho on New Years day is something of a necessity and tradition for us. :)

                    I'm sure I'll return to Nam Viet in the coming year since I'm in the area not too infrequently, and about 3/4 of the time, I don't have my car with me so I am bound by the limitations of public transport. I do appreciate your suggestions very much.

                    1. re: cimui
                      hamster Jan 2, 2010 04:35 PM

                      If you're stuck on District only options only, try Pho 14 in Columbia Heights. It kicks Nam Viet out of the water. I was so annoyed by my pho experience at Nam Viet when I lived around there. At Pho 14, just don't get the chicken pho. The beef is good though.
                      There's also a second place that just opened in Columbia Heights called Pho Viet. I've read some good reviews but haven't tried it yet myself.

                      1. re: hamster
                        Dennis S Jan 2, 2010 05:07 PM

                        Good to hear you all in the District might have some good pho, finally. Now I need some help finding other Vietnamese that's a go-to that is 1) not Pho and 2) not Eden Center and 3) hopefully in NW FFX county. Any love?

                        1. re: Dennis S
                          Dennis S Jan 4, 2010 06:48 PM

                          Hey Cimui, thought I'd cross post a similar conversation - it is based in the Reston/Herndon area, but it just seems odd that there's such a good pho or good other VN trend. But again, maybe it's not odd and there is some underlying reason.


                          1. re: Dennis S
                            cimui Jan 4, 2010 08:39 PM

                            It's all about immigration patterns, I guess. DC has a lot better Vietnamese and Salvadoran than Manhattan (though there's some decent stuff in the outer boroughs) in part because you're lucky enough to have that critical mass in population when good, authentic restaurants start popping up. I am beyond envious and am currently hatching a devious plan to lure more Vietnamese and Salvadorans up north...

                            Good cross section of places on that other thread and a good read, thank you! Is the Herndon / Reston area better for pho than Falls Church / Eden Center, do you think? A friend also threw Arlington into the mix as recommended pho hunting grounds, but that might just be because she lives there.

                        2. re: hamster
                          cimui Jan 4, 2010 09:00 PM

                          I suspect I'll be seeing a friend who lives in nearby Petworth quite a lot more this year, Hamster. =) Recs appreciated!

            2. m
              Missy Mar 18, 2009 02:45 PM

              Well, I was worried because 1) my sister said it was good and she is the type of person who can be happy on a trip to Las Vegas eating peanut butter crackers in the hotel room to save money, and 2) because all the posts I came up with when I searched referred to the Clarendon location. I wasn't sure if they were related to the DC location. I'm a pho-natic and nothing depresses me more than a dismal bowl, so I'll go for another dish if the pho is weak.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Missy
                Dennis S Mar 18, 2009 04:51 PM

                For the Clarendon location it's not that its weak - but its not the best in the area and the rest of the menu outshines most other VN restos - and some dishes are just stellar. Okay - maybe tone it down a bit - but overall it's a great place. Even a non-hound stumbles on to a good place once in a while! (but I understand the concern).

              2. b
                brianV Mar 18, 2009 05:50 PM

                I live nearby and eat there fairly often. The problem is that it's variable--I've had the soups somedays when they're great, and others when they are dishwater. The other dishes do tend to be more reliable--the spring rolls are quite good, the scallop appetizer usually good, the caramel chicken good.

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