100 Best Restaurants 2009: Present

No. 88: Present

Cuisine: Plates are adorned with carved-radish blossoms, and even the dish names are fanciful. Will you choose the Sleeping Duck on Golden Pond or Tuna Swimming in Mango Grove? Theatrics notwithstanding, high-quality ingredients and the finesse of chef Luong Tran lift this strip-mall retreat above its Falls Church rivals.

Mood: A wall of trickling water imparts a spalike calm over the wood-latticed dining room, where Vietnamese expats and a handful of nonnatives settle in for quiet dinners attended by vested waiters.

Best for: Both timid eaters and devotees of Vietnamese cooking. There’s plenty on the menu that doesn’t require a sense of adventure, but there are also dishes you won’t see many other places.

Best dishes: Seafood salad in a halved pineapple; Silken Shawl Imperial Autumn Rolls, spring rolls encased in a lacy sheath; fried rice with lump crab and shrimp; salt-and-pepper fried shrimp on pineapple; grilled pork over vermicelli bun; hash of sautéed baby clams in a giant sesame-cracker shell; soup with tofu, pork, and long-cut chives; fried banana in coconut milk; rich Vietnamese coffee.

Insider tips: Servers tend to push easy-to-like items and dissuade Westerners from ordering esoteric dishes. You might have to gently insist on what you want.

Service: ••½

Open daily for lunch and dinner. Inexpensive.

>> See all 100 Best Restaurants 

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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.