OK, I'm calling myself out. I finally tried Present for lunch today, and it is better than Four Sisters. As far as atmosphere and decor, and even attentive staff, the two are about the same with a slight edge to Present. But it looks to me like Present has the better food.
I pass it numerous times and although I'm tempted to try it, when I have a hankering for serious Vietnamese food, Four Sisters is only about 3 miles away from this place....
Whenever I try an ethnic eatery, I use a baseline dish to compare it to the others I've dined at. For Cantonese, I use black pepper beef, for Thai I use Pad Kee Mao (drunken noodles)....for Vietnamese, I use the vermicelli topped with cha gio (spring roll) and grilled pork. The version I tried at Present simply blew away the competition, with crispy and flavorful cha gio and little piles of peanuts, bean sprouts and julienned veggies along with a generous portion of grilled pork over a bowl of perfectly cooked vermicelli. Drizzle in some fish sauce and let your chop sticks stir it around, and this is a palate and belly pleasing trip to Vietnam. Because this place met my baseline test, and then some, I look forward to trying the rest of the colorfully described menu items on future visits.
I only had water with my meal, so the tab came to $9.40. That had to be the single best under-$10 lunch I have had in a very long time.
At the next table over, two representatives from Bouchaine winery from Napa were pouring tastes for the manager, and it looked like he was intending to add this selection to the wine list. I overheard that the Bouchaine reps were heading to Willow later in the afternoon.
When I walked in around 1pm, there were about 30 diners, with about a 50-50 split between Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese. In the next 20-30 minutes, a family of 14 Vietnamese covering at least three generations came in, followed closely by another Vietnamese family of six. OK, so I guess that means it's genuine.