6678 Arlington Blvd.
Falls Church, VA 22042
CUISINE Vietnamese, Vegetarian/Vegan
PRICE Under $12
HOURS Open for lunch and dinner daily.
NVM AWARDS Best New Restaurant 2009
Best Restaurant 2009
Best Restaurant 2012
NEARBY METRO None
By Warren Rojas
Food: 6.5 Ambiance: 6.5 Service: 6.3
The crowds keep coming. And chef Luong Tran continues to oblige with traditional, yet innovative Vietnamese cuisine.
But a few false starts have left this critic wondering if perhaps all the positive press hasn’t started to go the Present wait staff’s head.
One server got downright snippy (“what else you want?” she demanded) toward the end of her shift. Another actively lobbied against my ordering the catfish. “It’s something Vietnamese people like. Very strong sauce,” he warned (if anything, the fish sauce was terribly tame).
Luckily, conscientious servers often still carry the day. As was the case when another server swooped in to provide tips on attacking a target-rich plate (cam on ban).
Steamed rice cakes topped with shredded shrimp, dried pork, scallions and fish sauce cover the flavor spectrum in a single bite. A pull-apart wonton bowl brimming with five-spice pork, fresh basil, onions, zesty sausage and fried rice is a fragrant masterpiece with an edible canvas. Ivory squid swims in an ocean of sweet-and-sour populated by pineapple, cucumbers and the most aggressive celery (inundated with fire) I’ve ever encountered.(May 2009)
By Warren Rojas
I don’t think I’m telling tales out of school by revealing that Vietnamese restaurants are a dime a dozen in Falls Church.
Which makes Present’s foresight at investing in gorgeous environs and top-notch talent (acclaimed Vietnamese toque Luong Tran) that much more impressive.
The serene suburban newcomer immediately puts patrons at ease via a gurgling decorative waterfall, hand-cut orchids and nattily dressed servers who fawn over each guest as if they’d been visiting for years. The menu outlines just over six dozen dishes, all christened with wildly poetic titles (Resting Steer on Haystack, Sunning in the Tropics, Calling the Mountain Dewdrops).
“They’re all such beautiful names,” one first timer shares with her server.
One doubly delicious number summons a roasted duck leg (burnished with five-spice), that’s then to be self-shredded and returned to a sweet-sour soup laden with vermicelli noodles, roast pork, Chinese broccoli, mushrooms, basil, shaved mango (brings the tart) and Sriracha. Mango-covered tuna starts strong (deep-fried fish, julienned fruit play to each others’ strengths) but eventually sputters (hearty steak could use some light saucing). Lemongrass chicken spits fire courtesy of a charred garlic and crushed red pepper crust (heavenly).