Present: An Extraordinary Banquet w/ 14 Courses
Yesterday evening nine of us did our best to work our way through an extraordinary 14 course, 3 and one half hour banquet at what may be the best Vietnamese restaurant in the United States. Certainly, Present's Chef was voted one of the two best in Vietnam several years ago before moving here. This is going to be detailed over several posts because of what I believe is the limit to four photographs in each post.
From the left below with several of the descriptions from their menu:
1. Golden Gems of the Atlantic which featured abalone and Chinese bok choy.
2. Silken Shawl Imperial Roll-Intricately hand-made rice thread wrapper filled with marinated minced prawn and minced pork, deep fried until crispy
3. The four home made hot sauces featured with our dinner.
4. Lobster Swimming in Coconut Groove-Lobster in a rich, delicious coconut cream sauce.
This banquet was an extraordinary meal, from start to finish. Chef Luong Tran and his other talented cooks are really giving it their all. My favorite dishes were the Smokey Petal, Medallions of the Seven Seas, and Pilgrim on the Beach. There were a couple of misses, in my opinion, where it seemed things just didn't come together right given the volume of food, and the number of guests. Lobster, for instance, is always tricky because, hey, doesn't everybody want a claw or tail?
And the word is certainly out about it - with Washingtonian's Ann Limpert the first out of the gate in the reviews, http://www.washingtonian.com/restaurantreviews/2089.html
followed by Tim Carman's http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/youngandhungry/2009/05/21/present-is-a-state-of-mindand-one-helluva-vietnamese-restaurant/
and (tomorrow) Tom Sietsema's rave reviews. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...
I am looking forward to returning to explore more of the regular menu, and to see if (as Sietsema suggests) the same levels or greater, can be achieved when it's not a banquet dinner. I particularly want to try some of the salads, such as the papaya salad that are getting so much attention - as much for thier tastiness as for the fact that these dishes can be so mundane in other Vietnamese restaurants.