Viet Garden, one of the newest additions to the lineup of Vietnamese restaurants at Falls Church’s Eden Center, isn’t so easy to find. It’s located in a back corner of the Eden Mall, the central building in a vast complex of shops, cafés, and restaurants. Only a small banner outside of the restaurant bears the name of this Eden Center newcomer. But those who do find their way to Viet Garden will be rewarded by an ample menu of Vietnamese cuisine.
There are 15 appetizers in all to start the meal, mostly rolls and mixed salads. The fried egg rolls here – filled with minced pork, noodles, and vegetables – are impressively crispy, with a thin, crackling shell surrounding the savory filling. These are offered, at the server’s recommendation, with the house special sauce. It can be found at each table in ample portion, in a hinged-lid jar with a ladle ready to dole out servings of the tangy and sweet sauce. Chili paste, in a separate container, lets diners add some heat to the sauce.
An assortment of fresh rolls are also served here, wrapped in chewy rice paper and packed with bright herbs and, depending upon the selection, meat or tofu.
Dozens upon dozens of entrees are offered. Most cost about $8, even the chef’s specials. Twelve dishes are highlighted as chef specials. The newest addition to the bunch is the Com Tam Cali, one of very few entrees on the menu priced at more than $10. In this dish, diners can sample pork three ways: cut in thin slices and grilled for smoky, lightly sweet flavor; ground and packed like a meatloaf, with an herby flavor; and cut in small rectangles and fried. Each preparation takes pork in a unique direction, and the sides in this dish are an added delight. A fried egg is served alongside the meats, along with a mound of cooked rice with a crunchy browned shell. The texture of the rice adds intrigue, and the broken yolk running through the platter is a delicious treat.
Many of the entrees feature seasoned meats over rice or noodles. Grilled lemongrass chicken over vermicelli noodles has become a popular selection on the menu. The entree is served in a massive bowl full of noodles, shredded lettuce, basil, and pickled vegetable slices, all topped with chunks of grilled chicken and presented with the suggestion that plenty of the house sauce be added.
There are also a handful of options for pho, the beloved Vietnamese noodle soup, (including one that serves deep-red cubes of congealed pig’s blood in a heavy broth, offered with a side of fatty cooked duck pieces to chew away from the bone).
Its hidden-away locale may help to make Viet Garden feel like a secret treasure, but the food here does more to that effect. The menu offers a range of dishes to satisfy newcomers to Vietnamese cuisine and old hands alike in an atmosphere that encourages conversation about the food, making dining at Viet Garden not just a meal, but an experience.
Viet Garden is located at 6763 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church. For more information, call 703-992-8579. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.