Four Sisters has long been a Falls Church favorite. From its beginnings decades ago in Eden Center to its latest chapter in Merrifield, the restaurant has become a go-to spot for fine Vietnamese dining. It’s a reputation that makes the opening of Four Sisters Grill all the more exciting.
Last month, Four Sisters opened a spot with a fast-casual take on Vietnamese cuisine in Clarendon. The site has seen some turnover in the past few years – it’s been home to both the healthy-eats focused Rabbit Salad and Grill and the short-lived Fat Shorty’s, purveyor of beer and game-meat sausages.
Four Sisters Grill offers a trim menu of Vietnamese eats: spring rolls and papaya salads for appetizers; seasoned meat and tofu dishes over rice or noodles and a few bánh mì sandwiches for entrées; and a selection of beer and other beverages (including Thai iced tea and Vietnamese iced coffee in 16- and 24-ounce sizes). All but two menu items (fried fish fillet and grilled black pepper beef, both over rice) cost less than $10.
While the bargain prices are certainly appreciated, the speed with which the cuisine is presented here is the greater surprise. On a recent visit, food began to arrive mere moments after staking out a table with a numbered placard and grabbing some silverware and napkins. As one might expect from a fast-casual spot, there’s a do-it-yourself component to dining in and few frills in presentation. But take the Vietnamese Iced Coffee ($3.75 for 16 ounces, $4.25 for 24 ounces) as example: It may be served in a plastic cup bearing the signature Four Sisters logo, but that cup is filled with a quality beverage, creamy and sweet with rich coffee flavor.
Appetizers are presented first, and fast. The Crispy Spring Rolls ($3.95) are warm, with a bubbled and crackling shell packed tightly with minced pork, cellophane noodles, and a few flecks of diced vegetables. They’re served with fish sauce; a little plastic cup of the dark amber sauce – salty and just a touch sweet – is presented for dipping. A vegetarian variety of the spring rolls are also offered. Similarly, the Green Papaya Salad can be made with shrimp and pork for $9.95, or with fried tofu strips (and no fish sauce) for a dollar less. Whatever the order, an ample portion of the salad is served in a mound surrounded by large petal-like red cabbage leaves. The salad is a delight of crunchy textures, with strips of papaya and bits of peanut. The dish is salty and sweet, made bright with basil, cilantro and mint and spiced only mildly with specks of red chili.
The bánh mì selection here costs a bit more than one might find at other local Vietnamese sandwich shops (each of the five menu items costs $6.25). But a dollar or two can be glanced over when digging past a crusty baguette and into chewy bread filled with meats, tangy and crunchy pickled carrot and radish strips, cool cucumber and cilantro, and sharp blasts of heat from big jalapeño pepper chunks. Pork, chicken, beef, and tofu varieties make the menu, as well as the classic combo of Vietnamese cold cuts and pate.
Most of the meats in the entrées here – whether they’re served over rice vermicelli with chopped vegetables and bean sprouts, or over a bed of jasmine rice with fresh vegetables and greens on the side – are grilled and lemongrass seasoned. In the popular Grilled Lemongrass Pork rice entrée ($8.95), the meat is so well seasoned and so tender as to belie the price tag. Fish sauce returns with an order of the entrée, offered here to pour over the meat and drip into the ample rice beneath it.
A meal at Four Sisters Grill, with its streamlined menu of fantastic flavors, affordable prices, and quick convenience, is proof enough that Four Sisters will be expanding its reputation for serving quality Vietnamese cuisine.
Four Sisters Grill is located at 3035 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington. For more information, call 703-243-9020 or visit foursistersgrill.com.