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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Daily 8:30am–9:00pm

Features Outdoor dining
Bar Beer
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Accepted


Falls Church, VA
6796 Wilson Blvd.
Falls Church, VA
(703) 538-5289
Hai Duong
You haven’t lived until you’ve tried the fragrant doi (innard terrine) here

Even among rows of refreshingly authentic Vietnamese storefronts in the Eden Center’s Saigon West, Hai Duong is a standout. Like many of its neighbors, the space has no exterior windows or natural light; rather, the front door simply opens onto a corridor of the mall. The décor is pretty cookie-cutter: tables of assorted materials (faux-marble, light wood veneer); cheap chairs; white walls; cheesy Asian music videos on a flat-screen TV; neon signs in primary colors; and, of course, the classic totally random wall art, cheaply framed and haphazardly hung. Still, the bright, yellowish lighting lends a cheery air to the space, an artificial-sunlight-like effect, and when the place is crowded (as it often is at lunchtime), it has some real atmosphere—definitely a feat for the Eden Center.

In any case, the kitchen is where the magic happens. The menu’s poorly translated, but it’s hard to go wrong. The various versions of pho (“bible tripe,” soft tendon, fatty brisket, and so on) are popular, and they’re quite good—as are the bahn xeo (Vietnamese crêpes)—but why not appreciate the more unique offerings? How about bo tai chanh (beef “underdone”—i.e. rare—with lime), bun bo Hue (wider-than-usual rice noodles in a spicy soup of beef and pork feet), or cha ca thang long (a deeply spiced fish filet)? Sweet, crispy quail is excellent, too.

You can skip the cold salads, whose peanut-and-fried-onion crunch is too often brought down by overcooked, flavorless proteins (shrimp, thin pork slices, and such), although one version—goi sua tom thit—is partially rescued by resilient jellyfish strips, and any can be brightened by the extremely hot homemade chili sauce and savory fish sauce.

Best of all, though, is chao long, a rice porridge whose menu description, “combination pork liver and intestines,” leaves out some of its key elements: rich pork hearts, cubes of congealed pork blood, and magnificent slices of doi, a fragrant terrine of pork innards, lemongrass, and black pepper that’s wrapped in pork skin and steamed. The soup comes with a plate of fried doughnuts that, by themselves, are fish out of water—chewy and boring—but when dropped into the broth like croutons, turn into something really wonderful, absorbing prodigious quantities of broth while still maintaining their doughy fattiness. Ginger, fried onion, and fried garlic add even more complexity to a broth whose sweet finish seems to last forever.

Prices, as ever in Eden, are below reasonable. It’s yet another reminder of the often-inverse correlation between price and taste in the nation’s capital.

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