Recently moved to NOVA - Lunch & Dinner in Eden Center?
I recently moved from Massachusetts and I keep seeing posts referring to the Eden Center. Is this some gastronomic Garden of Eden? If I was going to be in that area for lunch and for dinner, what would you recommend for each? I love all types of cuisine, especially Vietnamese which is severely lacking in the Boston area.
It's been too long since I've been there to rec specific eating destinations, but:
1) When going the first time, plan 30-60 minutes before or after the meal to walk around. I recommend before, so that you can also check out some of the eateries up close and personal. Then maybe hit the market on your way out (though with current temps, things will stay good if not frozen in the car).
2) Definitely check out Eden Center, but know that there are a lot of other good VN offerings all over - especially in NOVA. Nam Viet and Minh's (both in Arlington along the Orange line) get mentioned here a lot (Nam Viet being one of my fave places in the whole area); and then there's Pho. Another good stretch to check out, including for bahn mi, is the stretch along 50, just East of the beltway around Loehman's plaza; a number of places along that stretch.
To this last point, there is a cross-topic conversation currently going on, where the thrust is that a place that makes good pho might make good bahn mi and one or two other things, but if they have a fuller menu then most of those dishes are a tad sub-par. On the other hand, the places with a very good full menu aren't the places to go for pho. And lastly, there's a decent amount of variation just within the cuisine and (like any cuisine) variances across the different restaurants themselves; from hole in the wall to fairly high-end dining. There is even a big difference in styles of pho from region of the country - most around here being southerly influenced - the easiest indicator is if they provide the garnishments (Northern style generally doesn't).
re: Dennis S
It takes a lot of work to make a good pho stock, so a good place for pho generally only has pho, with perhaps a few other dishes.
Places that sell banh mi usually have banh mi, summer rolls, and a few other things premade for carryout, plus bubble drinks. Most don't have much, if any, seating room. I can't think of a place that sells banh mi that also sells pho.
A popular favorite at Eden Center is Huong Viet. Although I enjoyed it, my personal favorite is Tay Do. Both are restaurants that have relatively extensive menus. My favorite dish at Tay Do is their Hanoi style bun (noodles with lettuce and herbs with different types of meat served in a amazingly delicious sauce).
Outside of Eden Center, I recently had great summer rolls (stuffed with barbecued pork) from Banh Mi DC sandwich, off Route 50 near the Beltway.
Other posters have their own favorites. It is difficult to go wrong at Eden Center; I am rarely disappointed.
If you love Vietnamese then you are in luck my friend. The Eden Center is great. Yes, it is a gastronomic Garden of Eden.
Huong Viet is tops for me for overall basic fare--best spring rolls by far, good grilled meats (i like banh hoi platters as opposed to bun platters), shrimp in caramel sauce with chilies, lemongrass chicken with chili and ginger, Vietnamese salads...most of the staples.
Viet Bistro has a good papaya salad with beef jerky and good minced clams with rice crackers shells. Clay pot rice dishes also pretty good. Other dishes there have been disappointing.
Hai Duong has good underdone beef with lime and clay pot rice dish with pork and clams. The grilled pork is ok as well. Overall, though, not my favorite.
I've been disappointed in my few trips to Viet Royale.
Song Que deli is good for lunch. On the counter in the middle of the store there is good banh cuon, grilled chicken with lemongrass, and many coconut milk-based sweets that are wrapped and ready to go. Get a banh mi with grilled pork, chicken, or chili-lemongrass tofu.
As others have said, there's also good Vietnamese places outside of Eden--I especially like Present in Falls Church (shaky beef, papaya salad, minced clams with rice cracker shell, lemongrass chicken, autumn imperial rolls, seafood salad).
Across the street from Eden is Saigon Cafe, which has some intriguing central Vietnamese stuff i know little about. There's a dish there called bahn it ram which is very good.
The choices are many.
Eden Center is a Vietnamese shopping center with at least 23 Vietnamese restaurants and other shops. There is a main parking plaza ringed by shops plus there are three *hidden* interior courtyards with tiny shops and places to eat. Some of these close at 8pm.
My two favorite places are tiny and are in the interior corridors. Bot are holes-in-the wall.
Nha Trang has several great dishes: the noodle dish with shrimp paste "in the shape of worms" (this is served as a soup), the roast quail, their version of shaky beef (bo luc lac), #10 appetizer (summer rolls with minced pork), and minced clams on sesame cracker.
Bay Lo is even tinier and maybe will provide an inconsequential language barrier. Go for the fried goat roll (a misnomer, this is goat in a coconut gravy), the miscellaneous salad, and the Bay Lo 7 Special - which is shrimp, pork, and meatballs in a savory sauce.
Both are great experiences.
There are also a lot of other Vietnamese places in the area that are outstanding. Near the Eden Center is a pho place that I think has an amazing stock is called Mr. Pho. It is only a couple blocks away.
Mr Pho Restaurant
6186 Arlington Boulevard, Falls Church, VA(703) 237-1520
There is also a great Vietnamese restaurant that has excellent traditional dishes called Present and is only one of two 3-star restaurants in NOVA according to the Washington Post (Restaurant Eve is the other). The staff is also excellent. It is a much nicer environment as well from the norm.
There is also one called Four Sisters which is supposed to be competitive with Present, but I have not been to it. It has moved from the area now to a new space.
Moving from Boston you are going to miss Italian food. Can't find that here, but great Vietnamese (and Korean as well).