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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Sun–Thu 11:00am–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 11:00am–11:00pm

Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Cleveland Park
3419 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 237-1015

Arlington, VA
1127 N. Hudson St.
Arlington, VA
(703) 522-7110
Tasty, steamy Vietnamese comfort—now in DC, too

Kudos to a spot that’s brought good Vietnamese food to the District, without mangling flavors or inflating prices. The Connecticut Avenue shop is one outpost of the two-store chain (the other location is in Arlington), but no spices have fallen overboard in the restaurant’s migration across the river. Rather, Nam-Viet is a charming and down-to-earth place to stop for an honest bowl of pho or plate of noodles.

Nam-Viet can be distinguished from its Cleveland Park neighbors (many of which are some kind of “bistro” or “brasserie”) by its mustard-yellow sign and the unappealing neon-lit rendering of a bowl of pho in the window. The interior is organized in double-shotgun-style, with an abridged entry and waiting area, and a skinny dining room with three columns of tables mediated by two aisles. If you’re sitting at one of the middle tables, your elbows are liable to be bumped by passing patrons. Given that Nam-Viet—even at peak hours—is rarely more than 50 percent full, the owner’s motivations for packing in so many tables is mystifying.

But all of this is easily overlooked once the food arrives, and it tends to arrive quickly. The pho is some of the freshest around; although this means a less fatty broth and a more moderated beef flavor, the soup always tastes as if it’s been sitting around for just enough time to let the flavors meld, but not grow old. The noodles, as well, taste homemade.

But Nam-Viet is more than just a pho junket. Although some of the other soups entail a mess of soggy vegetables and too-sweet broth, many of the main dishes are quite good. Gently sautéed eggplant is a brilliant purple color, and the vegetable is flavorful and smoky and soft. The shrimp garden rolls, meanwhile, are made with king shrimp, fresh mint, and chewy rice paper; the resulting flavor is refreshing but bold.

Sometimes the steam rising over the rim of a hot bowl and the focused slurp of noodles is all you need to take the edge off a gloomy District evening.

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