Cheap Eats 2007: Viet Royale

The kitchen at this Eden Center mainstay is machinelike in its focus and speed. Even when the big dining room fills up, plates arrive minutes after they’re ordered, making for happy pileups at the table—inevitably, a waitress will warn you that you’ve ordered too much.

It’s hard not to. The range of dishes is beguiling—soups, hot pots, rice dishes, noodle casseroles—the flavors are big and bold, the heat is insinuating, and the dishes are satisfying while adhering to the cardinal virtues of Vietnamese cooking: brightness, balance, and finesse. Thin-sliced short ribs in black-pepper sauce is a fiery version of pepper steak. Bundles of sliced pork, shrimp, and sprouts poke out from crispy rice crepes. If there’s a weak link, it’s the stir-fries, though the Shaky Beef—cubes of soy-soaked meat tossed with tomato, onion, and pepper—is a delectable exception.

Good as these plates are—and they come with big bowls of steamed rice—all are improved by a splash of the house-made fish sauce. Best of all: heads-on prawns in sizzling caramelized coconut juice that is sweet without being cloying and delicate instead of heavy.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.