Jump to content

Little Viet Garden (Formerly Banh Ta), Anh Hong's Fantastic Vietnamese Boutique Snack Shop and Banh Mi Counter in Eden Center - Closed


Recommended Posts

Last week, I got this tweet from Jonathan Copeland:

Screenshot 2015-11-19 at 19.02.38.png

Although I had largely forgotten about it, somewhere in the recesses of my brain, it resided, because I was thirty-minutes early for an appointment in Falls Church today, and - <blink> - I remembered. I didn't remember who sent it, and I didn't remember the name of the restaurant; merely that someone I trusted had mentioned good Banh Mi in Eden Center - I pulled in.

I wasn't at all sure which restaurant it was, and there has been *so much* changeover in this shopping center in the past six months that Saigon West is borderline unrecognizable. I waffled a bit, then headed into Banh Ta, and as soon as I walked in, I thought to myself, 'This *must* be the place.'

Banh Ta is a tiny little pillbox boutique, just a few stores down from the outstanding Thanh Son Tofu, which has the best tofu I've found in the DC area. Despite being just a counter, it's very upscale looking, with market goods and an atmosphere that reminds me of a smaller version of the incredible Phu Quy Deli Delight. If you haven't been to Thanh Son Tofu or Phu Quy Deli Delight: GO!

I ordered a #1, Pork Belly (Bah Mi Thit ??, $4), the ?? being on the sign in the first link in the previous paragraph, and absolutely indecipherable by me and my illiterate Vietnamese (my apologies to native speakers - any guidance will be much appreciated). 

It's no secret that I haven't exactly been blown away by DC-area Banh Mi - in fact, the only ones I've had that I even consider "good" have been somewhat Americanized (Dickson Wine Bar and the underrated and under-appreciated Ba Bay). 

Until today, that is. Thanks to Jonathan's recommendation, I've now had what I believe to be the first authentic Banh Mi that I can say, with my European-influenced palate, and with an absolutely clear conscience, is *really, really good*! You don't even need a second one to fill up on, as the size is ample, so both qualitatively and quantitatively, we have ourselves a front runner in the local Banh Mi wars - you could say, if you valued bad puns more than honorable use of language, that this Banh Mi, won me.

These three storefronts in Eden Center are less than 100 yards away from each other, and justify a special excursion to experience. I am - *finally* - sold on the merits of this sandwich, and I suspect that in Vietnam, it gets even better than this.

Absolutely initialized in Italic in the East Falls Church section of the Virginia Dining Guide, and I'm very much looking forward to a repeat visit, thanks to the recommendation of Jonathan Copeland.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds amazing, and will have to try it soon... Been hoping we'd get a reasonable BM place, seeing that we have so many options that are kind of lame currently.

Looked it up on Yelp just to get pictures, and I read a review that reminds me of why Yelp is a horrible community... It's from July 1, 2015 from Huy T, and clearly a competitor. I'm not adding a link, as to not wanting to give them any traffic, but it includes this charmer:

"And this...MY FRIEND HAS A DIARRHEA RIGHT AFTER WE ATE. Im sorry. But i will never step in this bakery again. Unless i have the need to visit the bathroom right away."

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/19/2015 at 2:41 PM, Simul Parikh said:

"And this...MY FRIEND HAS A DIARRHEA RIGHT AFTER WE ATE. Im sorry. But i will never step in this bakery again. Unless i have the need to visit the bathroom right away."

The key word being "bakery" - this is the only version I've had with bread that's worth the calories - I've always suspected most of the Bí¡nh Mí¬ houses get their bread from a (rather lame) central bakery; this was different.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/19/2015 at 2:41 PM, Simul Parikh said:

Sounds amazing, and will have to try it soon... Been hoping we'd get a reasonable BM place, seeing that we have so many options that are kind of lame currently.

Looked it up on Yelp just to get pictures, and I read a review that reminds me of why Yelp is a horrible community... It's from July 1, 2015 from Huy T, and clearly a competitor. I'm not adding a link, as to not wanting to give them any traffic, but it includes this charmer:

"And this...MY FRIEND HAS A [xxx] RIGHT AFTER WE ATE. Im sorry. But i will never step in this bakery again. Unless i have the need to visit the bathroom right away."

These kinds of reviews are always a dead giveaway that the reviewer has no idea what they're on about. It takes upwards of 24 hours to get food poisoning, so if you're getting sick, it's not because of something you ate an hour prior. (excepting of course when you over-eat and get a tummy ache)

Link to post
Share on other sites

They were delicious today.  We had grilled lemongrass pork, the pork belly, and today's special, pork buns. The pork buns suffered a bit from traveling home with us because the buns were starting to get a bit soggy, but the roast pork inside was delicious.  The pork was similar to what you might find in a ramen soup, rather than a Chinese-style roast pork.  We've yet to try the pate and pork bahn mi that are waiting in our fridge. 

The interior is charming and anyone who needs to pick up some French sweets should be delighted with some of the packaged selections. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

After lunch at Rice Paper, MichaelBDC and I headed to Banh Ta Deli. I was so delighted the various authentic looking Vietnamese food, I went a little nuts. We started by ordering six banh mi (buy 5, get one free!) to go. The trick to getting banh mi to go is to ask for the veggies on the side. Then you heat them up in the oven (putting a sandwich open faced in the oven while it pre-heats to 350 usually does the trick for me) and add the veggies yourself. I had two of the banh mi thit nguou which has four different types of meats and is usually the only kind of banh mi I will get. I also had a banh mi pate cha, which only has pate and the Vietnamese pork loaf that is similar to bologna. MichaelBDC ordered one lemongrass pork banh mi, one pork belly banh mi, and one banh mi thit nguoi. I heated up one banh mi thit nguoi yesterday and it was great. I would have liked a little bit more meat in the sandwich, but overall the taste was there.

MichaelBDC and I also bought a banh bao, steamed pork buns. I loved eating these growing up and the ones at Banh Ta were just as good as I imagined them. There was a chunk of ground pork, some woodear mushrooms, a few slices of Chinese sausage, and half of a hard boiled egg. MichaelBDC thought the dough to meat ratio was off (too much dough) but I didn't mind. I can't wait to go back and buy some more.

I also bought a container of banh cuon to take home and eat. The banh cuon are rice crepes filled with ground pork and chopped woodear mushrooms and garnished with some fried shallots and several slices of cha, the Vietnamese bologna. Nuoc cham is also provided. I had this for lunch yesterday and loved it. Banh cuon is a Vietnamese dish I can never get enough of.

I convinced MichaelBDC to get a small container of beef jerky. He shared a slice with me and devoured the rest in one day. I thought the beef jerky was very good, but could have been a bit spicier.

Finally, I took home an order of banh chung, a traditional Vietnamese rice cake made of glutinous rice stuffed with pork, mung beans, and other ingredients. It is usually made and served around the Lunar New Year. I have not eaten this yet, but am looking forward to doing so this weekend. Given how much I enjoyed everything else we bought at Banh Ta, I think this banh chung will be delicious!

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Forgot to post my brief review.

Finally got over here the day the snow began. The plan was to get Banh Ta for lunch, and then run over to Hong Kong Palace to get provisions for the weekend. But, man the snow started fast, and so I sort of had to hustle. The place is a tiny shop, and super friendly people. There really isn't a place to sit, save for a small counter in the back that I don't really think they want you to eat there. Seems like a place to wait. So, I ordered the pork buns, and the pork rolls and pate banh mi. While I waited, we chatted. I had recently been to 'Nam to do some teaching, and adored the place. They were from Saigon, I had been to Hue, didn't make it north or south, so hadn't tried Banh Mi in Vietnam, at all. She said I looked like that actor, "the one in the movie with the spider."  "Tobey McGuire?" "Yeah, i think so." I never get that, but I'll take it!! They gave me banh chung on the house, and that's described above. Not my favorite thing, but interesting. I ate one of the buns, and it was great. The bread was better than most. She ran back. "No, no, not Spider movie. The movie with the Fly." Oh... This guy. "Yeah, you look exactly like him!! Movie Star!" .. Yeah, I get that all the time  :( (my mean co-residents had that picture up at my desk all through residency). Anyway, I had to hustle because the snow was picking up. It was a real tight space in there, so I ate it in the car on the way. Good flaky baguette bread, completely bad idea to eat in car, but it's kind of a marker of how good the bread was! Tasted delicious. Some jalapenos, pickled veggies, delicious pork. Way better than most $4 sandwiches.

Looking to try more of the sandwiches...

-S

  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/10/2016 at 3:47 PM, Simul Parikh said:

She said I looked like that actor, "the one in the movie with the spider."  "Tobey McGuire?" "Yeah, i think so." I never get that, but I'll take it!! They gave me banh chung on the house, and that's described above. Not my favorite thing, but interesting. I ate one of the buns, and it was great. The bread was better than most. She ran back. "No, no, not Spider movie. The movie with the Fly." Oh... This guy. "Yeah, you look exactly like him!! Movie Star!" .. Yeah, I get that all the time  :( (my mean co-residents had that picture up at my desk all through residency). 

This is funny! My friend Gary Levinson told me people used to think Jeff Goldblum was his doppelganger (I think even Jeff Goldblum would cringe at the thought of paying for the violin that Gary plays).

Link to post
Share on other sites

Writing an article for Thrillist on some of the best Eden Center dishes, so found myself there all day yesterday during the snow / rain / ice. Long story short, we ended the journey with a banh mi from Banh Ta deli. Ordered the #5, pate cha (pate and sliced pork roll). Paid $4. Proceeded to eat one of the best sandwiches I've had in a long time, full stop.

Perfect french baguette, with a thin, crackling crust and a chewy-soft interior; outstanding pate, creamy and sweet; and super bright marinated vegetables (seemed to be the usual daikon and carrot). Asked for extra jalapenos.

FWIW, my dining companion doesn't have much experience with Vietnamese cuisine, though she gamely soldiered on with me all day; she took the first bite and just said, "Holy shit. *This* is the best thing we've had all day." Agreed.

If you're in the area, this will be one of the best $4 you can spend. Husband and wife couple running the place couldn't be nicer, and they have a ton of other goodies, both sweet and savory (try the salted, spicy plums - unlike anything I've eaten before).

Cheers!

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

I like their banh mi's but I also like the ones at Song Long Deli (more meat in the meatball banh mi).  

There was a Facebook post recently which asked which Eden Center store had the best banh mi.  This list will comprise my future new places to try:  Nhu Lan Sandwich Shop, Huong Binh,  Banh Mi SO 1.  Nhu Lan was the winner.  Banh Ta and Song Long had many votes too.

Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, hopsing said:
He gave La Tagliatella a bad review and that place went out of business, probably because the review was true.
 
I'm surprised when positive reviews don't yield more business.  Banh Ta is the darling of the banh mi crowd and has had a lot of press in the past few months.  Yet I never see anyone in there, even on a Friday lunch hour.

People are still delusional enough to think that DC Sandwich is better.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It sounds like I need to get down to Banh Ta - it's been a while since we've been to Eden Center. I normally get Banh Mi from Phở Tan Vinh here in Silver Spring as it's close, but I'll definitely travel for something extraordinary.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Went into Banh Ta a couple of weeks ago and had two incredible sandwiches (as always).  These folks simply do not disappoint.  Layers of flavor, quality proteins, and they actually CARE about the food they are cooking (can't say the same about DC Sandwich, in my experience).

They are getting ready to close (in the next month or two) to renovate after which point they'll become a sit-down restaurant.  I asked if she'll still do banh mi and she said some, but not all of what they currently offer.  They're also no longer keeping the market component, which I really enjoyed - picking up pickled diakon/carrots, baked goods, etc. was always a great option.  It's unfortunate but the owner seems to be very excited so I wish them all the best.  I'll still be going in on a regular basis.  I just hope the switch to a more standard "restaurant" doesn't mean that they'll suddenly have to deal with direct competition from Rice Paper, etc.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Banh Ta will be closed for the summer, reopening in September.  Today is their last day before they close for the remodeling that will take over the space next door and turn Banh Ta into a restaurant.   We spent a worried lunch at the always delicious Huong Viet concerned about the "Last Day 50% off" sign on the chalkboard in front of Banh Ta.  We walked in after lunch and chatted with the owner to get the scoop.  

I look forward to their re-opening, particularly since some of their offerings like the roast pork bun, are a bit too juicy to travel well.  

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/4/2008 at 10:03 PM, cheezepowder said:

Except for Delhi Club and Hard Times, the stores in that island between Wilson and Clarendon Blvd across from the Clarendon Metro are now closed. I was very sad to walk by Little Viet Garden and see the sign on the door saying that the location is now closed and to visit their other location Miss Saigon in Georgetown.

Little Viet Garden has reopened at Eden Center.  "Little Viet Garden is back.  Here's why you should be excited about it," by Tim Carman, Washington Post.

  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites

For the confused/curious, Bahn Ta has reopened as Little Viet Garden.  The sign on the door as of 12/17/2016 says they are still in their soft opening, and a number of menu items are not yet available.  We confirmed with our server that bahn mi will be available for takeout, but are not yet. The broth on the pho was excellent, and I really liked the garden roll with grilled pork filling.  The roast pork buns are on the main menu.  The Post has a more complete story on the relationship between Little Viet Garden, Bahn Ta, and the Little Viet Garden that was in Clarendon for so many years.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, PollyG said:

For the confused/curious, Bahn Ta has reopened as Little Viet Garden.  The sign on the door as of 12/17/2016 says they are still in their soft opening, and a number of menu items are not yet available.  We confirmed with our server that bahn mi will be available for takeout, but are not yet. The broth on the pho was excellent, and I really liked the garden roll with grilled pork filling.  The roast pork buns are on the main menu.  The Post has a more complete story on the relationship between Little Viet Garden, Bahn Ta, and the Little Viet Garden that was in Clarendon for so many years.

They must have rented the space next door - this place was *tiny*, even for a carryout.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I went here a couple of times in the last month because I fell in love with her banh mi and wanted to see what she did with a full restaurant. The space is much bigger than the previous shop with a lot of tables. They were still in their soft opening phase but I was able to try a couple of dishes:

1. Crispy spring rolls - These were good. They didn't stand out from other places but you can't really go wrong with fried crunchy meat rolls. 

2. Vermicelli bowls - Theirs is probably the best version I've had with generous portions of meat, pickles, vegetables and noodles. The meat was good quality and well cooked. 

3. Simmered pork belly with eggs - This is a dish that I don't see in a lot of Vietnamese restaurants and always love getting it when I do. It's a homey dish that always reminds me of my mom's cooking. This version was good. The pork could have been a little softer but the braising liquid was really flavorful and made a great seasoning to the rice. 

4. Pho - Also a generous portion. The broth had a nice depth and flavor and the toppings were plentiful. 

Overall, I thought the flavor profile for the dishes veers a little sweeter, which is more typical of southern Vietnamese cooking. It's great to see another solid dining option at Eden Center along with Rice Paper. I look forward to the return of the banh mi and trying other things on their menu.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Went for a weekday lunch with my wife last week and had an excellent meal. Interesting--this place has gotten hammered on yelp due to service issues, but we had excellent( almost over-attentive service)

 We tried the following:

1) pork summer roll: this was a standard item which stood out for the amount of flavor provided by the pork

2) Minced clams with sesame crackers:  this was excellent---i have had a couple forgettable versions of this dish at other restaurants in that same mall, however here the flavors came through superbly.  I could have eaten a couple plates of this and been happy

3) Sour shrimp soup:  this was a miss.  It may have been an authentic version of the soup but it came off as one note.  It had an interesting array of vegetables including braised, celery, okra--which cooked in the broth and were still more raw than I am used to, and a few shrimp in a tamarind broth, but despite all these ingredients all you could taste was the tamarind

4) Simmered pork belly with eggs: this was excellent as well.  The pork was perfectly cooked with sticky soft skin and soft fat layers.  It was rich and the flavors of the broth complemented it well.  Was not super fond of the eggs tho

5) Tofu with caramel sauce: this was okay, a little ginger heavy for my taste.  I think it's supposed to be made with a young ginger that is edible in that quantity,  this had a lot of slivered ginger that still had a sharp bite to it

Overall this is my new go to in the mall

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

I go to LVG on a regular basis, probably because I go to Eden Center almost every weekday for brunch and this place has a wide variety of dishes, accepts credit cards, and makes tasty food on a consistent basis. 

I really like their grilled pork rolls, and their noodles (under the main courses) are delicious.  I've never had their pho though.  I think LVG is on par if not slightly better than Rice Paper, which is really mobbed these days.

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Going to be quick here but had lunch at Little Viet Garden yesterday and it was fantastic. I was very, very hungry when I went, which might influence this review.

First, let me set the stage. My 3 and 7 yr olds are phonatics but did not want to try "new pho" yesterday. I am not sure how we convinced them, but they went inside.

J7 slammed the summer roll and when he got the pho, he said, and I quote: "This pho is great! It's salty...in a good way!" It is and fatty in a good way. Furthermore, with the variety of meat, my kids tried them all and ended up getting more protein then usual.

J3 wanted to try everything. Loved the pho. Every time she said she was done, she'd eat more. The broth's depth of flavor was unusually good. The summer roll was just that. Nothing exciting but fresh and good.  DH had bun and it was amazing.  Not only was the pork perfectly cooked, it had a little juice under it that was smoky, and deep, and a little thick but not too much and the right balance of sweet and savory.

I started with crab and asparagus soup. Wonderful. J3 liked it too. I also had a salad that I'm forgetting but it too was great, fresh and not over dressed but had far fewer shrimp then I would like.

Very good; very nice space; ample staff. I'd go again and demand that broth for take out if I was sick.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Went Friday for lunch. Everyone was friendly and the spring rolls and my wife's vermicelli with beef was perfect and fresh. My rice crepe with pork roll was, uh, weird. It's totally on me and the menu said what it was but I wasn't expecting a spam/pork roll situation. This was definitely user error but would not order that again.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

We had a delicious meal last night. For apps we got 2 rolls, Spring Rolls (#1) and Garden Rolls (#2), both of which were tasty versions. Two things of note about the Garden Rolls that I really appreciated, one is that they included both shrimp and pork, which my memory only recalls all shrimp versions, and two were the mint they added to the rolls, and the enhanced flavor it provided. For mains, we got Grilled Pork and Spring Roll Rice Vermicelli (#69), which was a skewer of pork with some good char on it, and ample noodles etc. It also came with 2 full spring rolls. So, that's 6 rolls if you're counting at home. We also got Caramel [sic] Fish (#78), which was sweet and spicy, ample portion of chunky and flaky white fish. This dish was incredible. I'd fight you for it. Lastly, we got Caramel [sic] Pork & Egg (#84), which was 4 large pieces of pork belly and two hardboiled eggs served in a tasty brown sauce (alas, I wasn't being thoughtful in the moment, and so can't describe why it was tasty. You'll just have to take my word for it.). The egg, particularly the yolk, and pork belly worked really well together, which I suppose shouldn't be a surprise. The dish ran the spectrum of good to amazing, depending on the bite you are able to amass on your fork, and the resulting proportions of egg white, yolk, belly fat, belly meat, sauce, rice.

I was there last night and I already want to go back.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Went back again the other night, and had another excellent meal. We ordered the same things as above, with a few additions:

  • Crispy Calamari: this was an afterthought when we were ordering, thinking we ought to get something we were sure our son would eat, yet it ended up being one of the best things we had. Large pieces of fried calamari, sitting on top of a bed of cooked vegetables (mainly onions, peppers, and some greens) with a side of lemon pepper sauce that was so tasty and worked so well with the fish. As absurd as it sounds, it would be totally reasonable to come here for the calamari.
  • Caramel Pork: I ordered this by accident, forgetting that it was the pork & egg dish that we previously had. (Of course, this never would have happened had the website not been down all weekend, which left me unable to check my earlier review before heading out. Thanks, Rocks! :P) Anyway, it was very tasty and spicier than the description would have you believe (IMHO).
  • Saigon Crispy Noodles: I really liked the meat and sauce included in this dish. This was a brown sauce, which was a nice change from the heavier sauces from the caramelized dishes. The noodles were prepared in a bird-nest style, which I wasn't expecting and didn't care for. The menu description states "Crispy pan fried egg noodle sauteed with shrimp...". However, these noodles weren't sauteed with anything, rather they were prepared on their own, having been simply deep fried into a bowl shape. So, that was a bit disappointing. For our next visit, I'd want to find another dish that has the same brown sauce, but different noodle preparation.

Also, as an aside, Rice Paper was packed, with people waiting outside for tables to open up, while this place was at least half empty. What a shame.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...