If you didn’t know about Thanh Van Restaurant on a visit to the Eden Center, you might not find it on your own. It’s located inside the expansive Vietnamese shopping center’s Saigon West mall, as opposed to the more visible restaurants with their decorated storefronts facing out into Eden Center’s parking lot. (A map, found on the restaurant’s website, certainly helps in tracking down Thanh Van’s location).
A sandwich board sitting outside the tiny cafe, in the hallway of the mall, lists much of what can be ordered here. The all-vegetarian menu offers just over a dozen appetizers and entrees, plus a few drinks and desserts.
If you weren’t looking for Thanh Van Restaurant you might miss it. But in enjoying a meal here you won’t miss an overloaded menu, and in its well-crafted vegetarian cuisine you won’t miss meat.
The restaurant offers four appetizers in all, with its Lotus Root Salad ($5.95 for a small, $9.95 for a large) topping the list. The mild, crunchy roots are the focus of the salad, mixed in with assorted vegetables. The lotus roots are cut on the bias, showcasing their curious pattern, the round holes arranged in a circle on each slice of the plant. The other three appetizers are rolls, at $2.75 an order. The Spring Rolls have a dark tan, deep-fried shell that crackles with a bite and exposes a dense and satisfying filling, without meat. The other two rolls, the Garden Rolls and Summer Rolls, focus on the fresh flavors and crunchy textures of herbs, vegetable strands, and tiny noodles accented by tofu pieces, all wrapped in chewy rice paper. (In the Garden Rolls, you’ll find a vegetarian substitute for shrimp, visible under the almost translucent rice paper, that maintains its crescent shape and rosy stripes.) With the order of an appetizer or entree comes a swift procession of sauces. Some have the amber hue of fish sauce and are flavored with chili or ginger, others are peanut-based, and servers recommend which dish to pair with which sauce.
About half of the available entrees are noodle soups. The Bamboo Shoots Noodle Soup among them may have a chunk of tofu in its depths to stand in for meat, but this is a soup for vegetable lovers. There are strips of yellow bamboo shoots, and hearty chunks of cauliflower, broccoli, and carrot among the noodles in the soup.
Meat substitutes are the focus of the Broken Rice, with fake pork served two ways – as small strips and as a rendition of Vietnamese-style pork loaf. The dish is served with slices of cucumber and tomato, and long pieces of lettuce.
The Vietnamese Pancake is an attention-grabbing entree. It distinguishes itself in size, to start. The pancake, positively stuffed with fillings, is folded onto itself and still the edges of the semicircle hang off of the plate. And in taste, the dish stands out. The taste of the pancake is almost buttery, thin and crisp at its edges yet still soft and substantial. Pieces of tofu cling to the pancake on the inside. Bean sprouts and mushrooms are found within, in abundance. Next to the pancake on the plate is a heap of herbs to brighten the dish, an accent found with many of the entrees here.
Every Thanh Van entree costs a mere $7.45, in just a few dishes the menu covers a good amount of culinary ground, and vegetarians (and carnivores alike) can enjoy a meat-free meal here. For these reasons and more, Thanh Van Restaurant is not to be missed.
Thanh Van Restaurant is located at 6795 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. For more information, call 703-639-0901 or visit thanhvanveggie.com.