Wed 30 Jun 2010
I have a long term love affair with some foods (sushi, gelato, cookie dough). Others are casual friends with benefits, coming into my kitchen when the season strikes (brats on the grill, hot chocolate). A few are embarrassing lapses of judgement I’d rather forget (Hot Pockets, I’m looking at you). One of the benefits of living in a diverse city like DC is that there are always new foods on the horizon, a new flirtation just around the corner.
So really my relationship with Vietnamese food is more along the lines of giving each other the casual whats-up head nod at parties. We haven’t really gotten serious. My introduction centers mainly on pho, that glorious beefy noodle soup that warms my soul every winter. I’ve also indulged in the occasional banh mi sandwich.
Make no mistake – I’m the one missing out by not trying to get to know Vietnamese a little better. So for our first official date, I wanted to go to the best: Four Sisters. There are an abundance of modest mom-and-pop Vietnamese restaurants in the DC/NoVa area but the restaurant that always rises to the top of the class with praise is Four Sisters.
Located in the ‘burbs of Falls Church, Four Sisters took me by surprise from the start with their sleek exterior and interior. I arrived expecting more of the modest family-owned experience typical of Vietnamese restaurants in the Clarendon area. Four Sisters (which is family owned as well) stomps out that idea with an upscale, modern vibe more often seen in Thai restaurants. My second surprise came once we were seated. The menu? Lo, it is expansive. I’m talking sixteen pages of food options expansive. Influenced by its geography (nihao!) and political history (bonjour!), Vietnamese cuisine delivers a variety of flavors and I’m pretty sure Four Sisters offers each and every one in three different forms. This is definitely a restaurant where dining with a group and sampling each other’s plates is a benefit to all.
We started the meal with crispy pork spring rolls and roasted quail served with lime dip. The spring rolls were packed with minced pork, surprising me with the lack of shredded cabbage. They were good – crispy without being too
greasy – and the salty fish sauce added a nice element to the flavor. Overall I was content but not overly impressed. The roasted quail, however, was a different story. Laquered and crisp, these tiny birds delivered a robust smoky flavor in a miniature package. When we moved into entrees, my grilled beef arrived with wafts of lemongrass sitting on a plateful of light vermicelli noodles. The beef was flavorful and tender, clearly a high quality cut.
With a menu as robust as Four Sisters’, I could spending months exploring their dedication to high quality Vietnamese cuisine without a single repeat dish. Sadly, Four Sisters is just a touch too far away for regular visits. I suppose it will have to be a long distance crush.