Cheap Eats 2007: Minh’s

The long, thin wisp of beard gives owner Anh Nguyen the slightly mystical air of a healer. He’s not, but the cooking at his tastefully appointed Vietnamese gem on the ground floor of a Clarendon office building does have restorative properties.

Anyone tired of the goopy saucing and banal flavors of too many Asian restaurants will exult in the care that goes into such dishes as a plate of spiced short ribs still pink in the center, a sizzling skillet of catfish perfumed with dill, and skewers of char-crossed pork sided with vermicelli noodles and piles of mint and cilantro. If you were limited to pork—a bubbling cauldron of peppery caramel pork, say, or a deeply flavorful dish of grilled-pork vermicelli available either southern-style (the hunks of meat on the skewer) or northern (doused in fish sauce)—you would leave content.

There are upmarket touches seldom found in Eden Center restaurants—the Shaky Beef comes with marinated filet mignon, not ground chuck, and a thick pork chop stars in a dish of lemongrass pork—but the kitchen doesn’t dumb things down: The flavors are always vivid, clean, and fragrant.

Even desserts are full of rewards, from a cup of sweet black rice capped with salty cream to a plate of fried bananas in rum, flamed tableside. “Here comes your candle,” the waiters like to josh. Minh’s burns bright.

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.