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Jan 5, 2012 05:37 AM

Best Banh Xeo, Banh Cuon in NoVa?

I saw Banh Xeo pancakes made with coconut milk in Tastespotting, and want to try them.

(Banh Xeo photo and recipe: ).

I know Eden Center places have their own specialties, and want to know your favorite place for this dish. Also, if the best is somewhere else, let me know (because some Vietnamese places are elsewhere).

Also, what is your favorite place for the Banh Cuon?
(photo and recipe: ).

Finally, is there some reference link for the various specialties of the restaurants at Eden Center?

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  1. I have been to places that are 'known' for their Banh Xeo (ie - Present), but I couldn't really tell the difference between those and any other.

    Saigon Garden, across from Eden Center - same shopping center as Guitar Center- is known for their banh cuon. Freshness is the key.

    I don't find either dish thrilling, so even the best examples in our area are not exciting to me. YMMV.

    I don't think there is any reliable list of Eden Center delights. My favorites are Nha Trang (the bowl of noodles with shrimp paste, the special garden rolls - just ask, there is a photo on the menu), the "miscellaneous" salad, the goat rolls, and the Bay Lo 7 Special at Bay Lo, the sweet and sour soup (any variation) at Huong Viet.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      thanks for your favorite dishes at some of the places. i just love rice noodles and coconut, so was hoping to get two in one. ;-). saigon garden is in the same strip as hong kong pearl seafood?

      "miscellaneous salad" does sound a little dicey, though -- haha. like "variety meats" lo mein that i got at mark's a few years back. -- sliced pig heart included…uhm, no thanks (and i didn't know what it was before i ate it; it had a weird taste and texture, so i asked. i learned my lesson).

      1. re: alkapal

        The 'miscellaneous' salad I was given had no strange parts in it. I think it was all vegetables. But who knows, maybe it changes with whatever scraps they have in the kitchen. It was exceptional.

        Yes, Saigon Cafe is in the same strip as Hong Kong Pearl.

      2. re: Steve

        Just wanted to report on my two delicious late lunches on Sunday afternoon, with thanks to Steve's advice.

        First lunch was at Nha Trang (#7-8) where, when I was about to order the goi cuon (shrimp and pork rolls), was stopped by our waiter (possibly the owner), who insisted that we order the first appetizer listed (probably the special garden rolls mentioned above by Steve) as we were first-timers there. Four rolls came out, tightly wrapped and filled with shrimp, pork, something crunchy, and lots of herbs. Accompanied by a peanutty sauce flavored with nam pla. Also ordered the noodles with shrimp paste (shaped like worms) which was a big bowl of thin rice noodles, the long thing rolls of shrimp paste, and some pork meatballs. We were given plenty of bean sprouts, basil, rau ram, and at least three other herbs I can't remember. This was more than enough for two people and cost us $20 inc. tax and tip. They gave us standard iced tea and service was fine.

        Next, we headed to Bay Lo and ordered the aforementioned miscellaneous salad, goat rolls, and Bay Lo 7 special. The miscellaneous salad was much like som tam, but had a greater variety of ingredients with the primary vegetable being young lotus stems. This was served with a spiced-up fish dipping sauce and a chili-soy dipping sauce for the shrimp puffs. The goat rolls in fat sause [sic] did not have an overwhelmingly gamy flavor. The meat was cut like slabs of pork belly and had a rind like pork belly and served in a peanut-coconut curry sprinkled with peanuts. The Bay Lo 7 special was a huge platter of rice noodles, marinated shredded daikon and carrots, sliced cucumbers, basil and two other herbs, another chili-fish dipping sauce, and a large bowl of different meats including marinated beef that was like galbi, unmarinated beef, meatballs, and something that I can't remember. Drinks were canned, and service was effusively friendly with the chef, a kindly grandmotherly type, coming out to tell us that the sauces were spicy. I can't wait to return!

        Crossposting this link as it was also helpful:

        1. re: mookleknuck

          Wow, you ate very well indeed. Glad you took my recs. The 'special' garden rolls have a rolled-up savory cookie inside. The dipping sauce is usually orange (the fruit, as well as the color) and is served warm.

          I'm actually relieved to hear that both places are still open as a friend mentioned to me that many places inside the interior corridor are papered-over.

          1. re: Steve

            I was wondering what that Crunch was! One of the things I always get at Nha Trang is the beef wrapped in grape leaves - Boring, I know you can get them anywhere - But the ones here always seem to be made fresh and are a steal at $5 if I remember. I also like that they bring out the side of Chiles to munch on (I haven't seen that anywhere else) - My first time there, I got a seed stuck in my throat - Not life-threatening, but the look on my face made a couple of the employees rush over to check on me, and they were barely convinced I was fine as I waved them off, tears streaming down my face....

            1. re: tommyskitchen

              Chili peppers at Bay Lo were a lot hotter than the ones provided at Nha Trang, so eat the former's accompaniment with caution!

            2. re: Steve

              Nha Trang was definitely the more occupied of the two; when we were there at about 230P, there were 2 3-tops and another 2-top. Bay Lo had recently had a table at about 315P, but they had left by the time we arrived, so we had the entire place to ourselves. Neither place was papered over, but perhaps that escaped my attention.

              Your recommendations have been close enough to my taste that I'm excited to try the Lao menus at Bangkok Golden the next time I'm through the area, so thank you for all your posts of your finds. Also, thanks for explaining the crunchy cookie and orange sauce at Nha Trang.

            3. re: mookleknuck

              What in the world are goat rolls? Goat is delicious.

              1. re: KWagle

                It's a misnomer, due to bad menu translation. It is goat in a brown coconut sauce.

                1. re: KWagle

                  The entire menu is poorly translated, so I was really grateful for Steve's clearly written recommendations. As I mentioned above, the goat was really rectangular pieces of meat, not in noticeably cylindrical form, etc..

            4. I know take-out is not what you asked about, but many (not all) days, Huong Binh bakery/deli in Eden Center has fresh-made ones by the pound, for an excellent low price.

              3 Replies
              1. re: wayne keyser

                the two places in the corner DO have tons of stuff like this. thanks for reminding me, wayne. is huong binh the one where you can eat in back, in the alcove with a few tables?

                1. re: alkapal

                  Nope - it's takeout only, about 4 doors down from the corner - really nice people



                  1. re: wayne keyser

                    thanks so much, wayne. i'm happy to see that they open at 8 a.m. every day!

              2. Also, in Eden Center there is a restaurant at the end of the corridor of the Saigon West mall: Banh Cuon Saigon Restaurant. The sign above the restaurant simply says 'Saigon Restaurant', but the sandwich sign in front touts the specialty. The banh cuon is good and fresh.

                Link to the restaurant:

                If you go to the Eden Center website, each place will have a short description of itself. If you click on "more" the description will enlarge and might mention the specialties.

                1. I can only imagine that there must be lots of options of good, fresh banh cuon at Eden Center.

                  Banh xeo is actually tricky to make and not all places do it well or do it inconsistently. I had a well stuffed and crispy (that's the clincher) at a place called May Saigon in Sterling recently.