Cheap Eats 2011: Present

You can get a good lotus salad or bowl of pho at many a Vietnamese restaurant. But a pork-and-prawn-filled spring roll encased in a handmade lattice of rice-flour batter or a shrimp salad in an intricately carved pineapple? That’s unique to Gene Nguyen’s lovely, waterfall-lined dining room. The plates aren’t just pretty–the attention to detail shows up in the ingredients and cooking, too. A beautifully balanced green-papaya salad is set apart by threads of jerkied liver, and a mound of fried rice is dotted with lump crabmeat. If you’re new to the cuisine, this is a good place to start. Servers are warm and frank, explaining the virtues of, say, caramelized pork ribs over caramelized pork slices.

Also good: Vermicelli bun with grilled pork; tamarind duck; shaky beef; fried shrimp.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

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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.