From June 2006 Cheap EatsThe dining room of this family-owned restaurant is done up in the decorative palette of the 1980s: black lacquer, glass cubes, lots of mauve and muted gray. But outdoors, the trellis-lined patio has a tropical aura that'll make you forget you're in a Rockville parking lot. As will the faithful, sometimes inspired renditions of dishes from every region of Vietnam.
The kitchen is at its best when exploring the cuisine's French and Chinese influences. That means forgoing the brisket pho and bowls of vermicelli bun in favor of shrimp, steak, and lobster. The signature black-pepper shrimp--a shareable pile of crunchy, deliciously spiced shrimp--stands up to its reputation. Shrimp mousse, spread on baguette and deep-fried, is a terrific riff on shrimp toast. Lobsters from the tank near the door are nicely showcased in the goi du-du tom hum salad, sprinkled with shreds of papaya. And beef is almost always well-tended, whether it's charred, thinly sliced, and dressed with crushed peanuts in a classic xa-lach bo nuong salad or marinated in lime juice, grilled, and topped with a runny egg.