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Dec 5, 2009 01:50 PM

Hai Duong Chowlunch Report

Seven Chowhounds got together at this Eden Center restaurant to check out the menu. When we got there, this large place was totally filled with customers. About an hour later, everyone had cleared out. Quite the lunch rush!

We ate:
Lotus root salad
Beef underdone with lime
Banh Xeo (crepe)
Soup with pig's heart, shrimp, beef, liver, quail eggs, and clear noodles
Pickled fish soup with rice noodles
Cha Ca Than Long (Crispy catfish under a mountian of dill)
Clay pot minced mussels and rice

Everyone's favorite was the clay pot mussels. The advantage of the clay pot version is leaving it in the pot long enough to crisp up the rice on the bottom. The delayed gratification paid off. Also, they use enough pork fat at this place to get this dish really tasty.

The sizzling catfish was served on skewers and the fresh dill got singed from the heat. Very nice.

Vietnamese crepe is never a very tasty dish, but if you're going to order it, I like the super crispy version we got here.

The soup with 'animal parts' was very light tasting and surprisingly refreshing.

The pickled fish soup was a misnomer and had a weird flavor. None of the ingredients tasted pickled, but the broth was very potent, almost like drinking spicy pickle juice - that maybe had turned for the worse.

Both the salads, lotus root and beef underdone, were so fresh tasting. the beef nice and spicy and the lotus root was very crispy, not limp as it sometimes is.

Overall, high marks for this place, and I'd be happy to return.

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  1. Awww it sounds great Steve, I can't wait to try the salads and the Catfish. The next time you guys need a 8th Chowhounder count me in! =)

    2 Replies
    1. re: helenahimm

      All you have to do is contact me, and you'll be on the list!

      1. re: Steve

        Hi Steve, should I shoot you an email with my info or how does it work?

    2. One correction: The clay pot dish was baby clams, not mussels. It is in the box with a list of house specialties. There's also a baby clam dish on the appetizer menu, which isn't served in a clay pot.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PollyG

        Yes, that's what I meant to write. Clearly I was in a food stupor. Thanks for the correction.

      2. yes, the minced clam and pork dish was the definitely best. I think it's the only thing I would order again were I to go back with a smaller group. Perhaps the beef underdone with lime as well.

        A fun lunch nonetheless.

        2 Replies
        1. re: CoconutMilk

          So you recommend the place for less than 5 people group? Was it uncomfortable or is the type of restaurants that go crazy when they have more than 4 in a table?

          1. re: helenahimm

            When we arrived (12:30) the place was full and very noisy. Steve had staked out enough space for the group, but if you were just to drop in at nominal lunch time with a larger group they might not be able to find enough tables to put together. It emptied out fast, though. By 1:30 or so when we left, the place was nearly empty. Maybe lunch starts early there.

            Other than it being hard to talk or hear what people were contributing to the order because of the din when we first got there, it wasn't uncomfortable at all, our waiter was efficient, pointed out which sauce went with which dish (I think we may have not remembered them all correctly but there's nothing wrong with experimenting), and brought plenty of extra bowls for sharing. Soup spoons were in a holder on the table so there were plenty of tools for serving.

            LIke CoconutMilk, the clams and beef with lime were my favorites. I've never really cared for "innards" and I try to avoid shrimp (sometimes allergies) but I was OK with the hunk of shrimp I had in the piece of the crepe I tried. I liked the texture and presentation of that crepe, and would probably have enjoyed one with something other than the seafood filling.

            This is a serious Vietnamese restaurant (as are most in Eden Center) - they have a lot of stuff that's not terribly familiar. They do a reasonable job of translation on the menu though, so you have some idea of what's coming (though you may not know if you'll like it or not) and it's a good idea to go with a good sized group to order a variety if you don't have a couple of "must get" favorites.

            If you haven't figured it out yet, fumble your way to Steve's profile (click on his name in a post, for starters) and you'll find his e-mail address up near the top of his list of favorites. This forum isn't set up for private user-to-user messages so you need to be clever to contact someone directly. <g>

        2. I'm most certain Pickled Fish Soup is Bun Mam in Vietnamese. "mam" in Vietnam is generally seafood preserved with salt, not pickled (which has acid involves, i believe).
          The fish is Snake Head Fish, a popular Mekong Delta spieces, the product is called "mam ca loc" if you'd like to find them in a market.
          Bun mam is a as typical to Southern Vietnamese as Pho to Northern Vietnamese and Bun Bo Hue to the Central region, it is also one of my favorite noodle soups. I'd say this is a rather adventurous dish for a foreigner to try, and it is a acquired taste, even for us. Without the proper veggies mixture on the side, i would not enjoy it as much.
          Kudos to you for being able to accept it with grace, even though clearly it didn't make you favorite list.
          Have you tried Canh Chua Ca' (fish sweet and sour soup) at Huong Viet? It is by far my favorite canh chua in all NoVa.

          1 Reply
          1. re: nhim_map

            Yes, a group of us tried the Canh Chua Ca at Huong Viet. It is outrageously good. You have very good taste! Huong Viet is a very good place all around.

            Pickled in English can mean preserved with salt or vinegar. it surprised us that the 'pickled' did not refer to the fish but the broth itself. The fish tasted like nothing was done to it. Yeah, I am positive it is an acquired taste.

            Have you tried Nha Trang or Bay Lo? Right now they are my two favorites, both in Eden Center. I like Present, especially the watercress soup with minced pork, but I find many of the same dishes at Nha Trang more succulent. Bay Lo is more adventurous.

            Also, when Tay Do first opened we had a very good group meal there, but I'm not sure it's under the same ownership.

            We are an adventurous group, it's true. If you'd like to join us sometime just e-mail me, and I'll put your name on the list.