Cheap Eats 2008: Viet Bistro

Why go: The Sputnik-style light fixtures and vaguely outer-space theme lend the feel of a kitschy nightclub, but the kitchen is serious and ambitious, turning out classics (rice crepes, caramel pots) and seldom-seen regional plates, all intensely flavored and satisfying.

What to get: Crisp-skinned roast quail; stir-fried rice with bits of chewy Chinese sausage and egg; caramel pork ribs with salt and pepper; pungent stir-fried chicken with pickled cabbage; clay-pot rice dishes—especially number 143, with vegetables and tofu; earthy, Hue-style spicy soup with slices of beef, pigs’ feet, and pork-blood gelatin.

Best for: Culinary adventurers who don’t want to sacrifice the comforts of more mainstream Vietnamese places, such as English-speaking servers who can describe dishes and point you in the right direction.

Insider tip: Less well known than Eden Center standbys Huong Que and Huong Viet, the Bistro is often easier to get into. But Sunday is family day, and the dining room fills up.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

See all Cheap Eats 2008 restaurants 

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.