Best representative vietnamese dishes?
I am beginning to explore Vietnamese restaurants in my area and would like some general suggestions about what to order. I recognize that any individual restaurant may have certain dishes that "stand out" from the crowd and are worth the trip alone. What I'm really looking for is 3 or so "representative" or "go-to" dishes that I could order from all of these restaurants in order to compare apples to apples. I am an omnivore and have am happy with meat/no meat, as long as it's authentic.
Thanks in advance for your help.
IMHO, pho is the singular Vietnamese representative dish that can be compared between restaurants fairly easily.
After pho, there is ban mi. I also like the carmelized catfish in a clay pot. I've seen these in most Vietnamese restaurants.
People have mentioned pho -- I'd go with a beef-based option. Bun bo Hue is another common noodle soup.
The vermicelli or rice bowls are great summer meals. Bun thit nuong -- rice vermicelli with grilled pork -- is a common option.
Banh mi (the sandwiches) are also a good basis for comparison. Most places offer a 'combo' option with various cold cuts and pate; it's usually the most interesting option if you don't mind not knowing exactly what you're eating.
Finally, banh xeo is a rice crepe dish with a bunch of stuff in it. Not as easy to find, but worth trying if you feel like exploring.
Bun thit nuong cha gio (rice vermicelli with grilled pork with fried rolls) is my fave non-soup noodles dish :-)
My point is, pho really showcases the talent in the kitchen as far as the quality and depth of the beef broth goes.
Here's a blog site dedicated to pho:
And another (NSFW or NSFH), bit of a play on Team America the movie:
The ones that are representative to me are my favorites, Cha Giao and Bun Bo Hue. If the restaurant does these well, then I will explore their menu.