Cheap Eats 2007: Viet Bistro

A cloud of smoke engulfs a cluster of Vietnamese businessmen huddled around the bar drinking tall glasses of sweet iced coffee. The rest of the crowd, from office workers to mothers with toddlers, don’t seem to notice—the building is new and ventilation pretty good.

Besides, there are other things to focus on, such as a hash of diced baby clams with hits of pork and chili to be scooped up with sesame-flecked rice crackers. Take the owners at their word: Hot means hot. Lotus-stalk salad with shrimp and pork may sound cool and refreshing, but it’s laced with chilies.

Portions are big, and so are the flavors. Rice casseroles cooked in a clay pot—the one with spicy Chinese sausage is especially delicious—have a homey robustness. And while the caramel-sauce dishes with pork, shrimp, or fish might be unfamiliar, the vinegar-based brew is a nice switch from the candy-sweet versions found elsewhere. Beware: It’s almost as addictive as cigarettes.

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.