Flip through the menu at Falls Church’s Little Saigon restaurant and you’ll understand why it’s introduced by the words “Taste of Vietnam.” With nearly 150 items to choose from, diners stopping by for a meal are sure to get a sampling of the flavors and techniques of Vietnamese cuisine, as well as a satisfying meal.
A choice from an assortment of appetizers (grilled meats, fresh rolls, spring rolls, and soups, with a few surprises like roasted quail and fried frog legs) and salads can begin the meal. Spring rolls here are offered with pork and shrimp or with crab meat, but also in a vegetarian variety.
In the meat-free option ($3.95), the large spring rolls are served two to an order. They’re cut into pieces, which sets into motion the crumbling of the thin layers of their quite-crispy shell, glistening from frying. Inside, the ample filling is a blended mash with bits of mushroom, glass noodle, and carrot discernible. Among the salads offered are two green papaya slaws, one with shrimp and pork and another with beef jerky ($7.95 for a small, $9.95 for a large). The latter is a pleasant mix of tastes and textures, with the cool and crisp green papaya contrasting thin spiced strands of chewy, bright red beef jerky.
The entrees are many and varied. An assortment of pho and hot pot soups; vermicelli, crepe, and steamed rice dishes; and stir-fried meats are just some of the options. Seafood is most plentiful on the menu, its menu section encompassing about 30 dishes in all. Among them is the caramel fish ($13.95). The entree is featured in the Family Dinner menu section, which offers diners multi-course meals to feed two, four, or six (with a narrower selection than the full menu, for those who might find deciding difficult).
The caramel fish is brought to the table in a clay pot, with chunks of catfish coated in the bronze sauce. It certainly has the look of caramel, in the way it clings to the fish and sticks to the serving spoon as it’s poured out over rice, but the taste is not overly sweet. The sweetness is balanced with saltiness, for an irresistible sauce that demands to be drizzled over rice when the flaky fish is gone.
The chicken sauteed with lemongrass ($11.95), is another Family Dinner pick. But unlike the caramel fish, these thin bits of stir-fried chicken and nearly translucent onion pack some heat, one that slowly builds with each bite.
Most entrees are served with white rice, doled out here in a glass bowl to accompany meaty dishes, but a few have broken rice as an important component. One such entree ($8.95) serves a large mound of the bead-like rice – meant to have fish sauce poured over it, a server advises – with dry shredded pork and a savory, fat-trimmed and grill-scored pork chop.
If you’re looking for that “Taste of Vietnam” that Little Saigon promises, you won’t be disappointed. But be prepared to make a return visit, because there are just too many tempting tastes to try.
Little Saigon is located at 6218 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church. For more information, call 703-536-2633 or visit littlesaigoncuisine1.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 10:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.