Present Vietnamese Restaurant: Imperial Vietnamese Cuisine
Try it soon, try it often, but do try it.
By: CM Leonard
Do you remember where the old Jefferson Movie Theatre was located? At Annandale Road and Arlington Boulevard one of the first Korean Restaurants opened decades ago and before that a Steak restaurant. Now, tucked next to Merchant Tire is Present Vietnamese Restaurant, an epicurean gem opened in 2009.
Upon entering, you will quickly note the open airy atmosphere, beautiful pendant lighting, and deeply carved coffered panels. An impressive fountain gently cascades into a rock pool emitting gentle, and soothing ripples heard throughout the restaurant. Dozens of delicately potted orchids add a gracious elegance to the décor. The restaurant is owned by Gene Nguyen, son of Tu Nguyen (Pho Hot, Annandale and Diamond Night Club, Eden Center). Present is managed by Austin Pham who grew up in Silver Spring and gained his restaurant expertise at both Clyde’s in Georgetown, and at the Old Ebbit Grill. Austin manages a serving staff of amiable individuals with both perfect English speaking skills, and expert knowledge of their menu. Austin explained, “This restaurant is dedicated to giving you the best food and the best service, and ambiance. We want you to live in the present and enjoy this dining experience.”
Present offers dishes from all three Vietnamese cuisines under the direction of Chef Luong Tran, who won the Best Restaurant in Vietnamese award for four consecutive years. Chef Tran provides an authentic Saigon cuisine with all the polished skills and layering of flavors known to this region, which was highly influenced by French techniques. After all, Saigon has always been called the Paris of Southeast Asia. To prove the point, a perfect Flan is offered on the dessert menu. The sugar is expertly caramelized, while the custard texture is gently firm, yet creamy. The second cuisine is Huey which refers to the city where the old Imperial Palace was located, and the center of cultural arts. It led the country in all artistic pursuits including the elaborate, and exceedingly impressive Imperial presentation of food. It proves the adage that the first taste of food is taken through the eyes. Chef Nhan Nguyen, an exceptionally artistic chef, is primarily responsible for platter presentation. The third cuisine is found in the north, close to the China border, so it is heavily influenced by Chinese flavors. Present Restaurant has crafted a menu to reflect the flavors, beauty, and ingredients of the entire nation…not an easy task.
Begin your experience with Smokey Petal (sautéed baby clams), the crispy Jewel Green Papaya Salad, or Treasure from the Sea (seafood pineapple salad). This, as much as any dish, represents the light, yet delightfully bold flavorful tastes found in Vietnam. Try one of the nine soups ranging from beef noodle to gumbo, or even a beef stew served with French bread. Move onto a few of the creatively named menu selections such as Pilgrim on the Beach (crabmeat and shrimp stir fried with rice), or Fish in the Tropical Garden (sautéed mackerel with pineapple cooked in a clay pot), or Duck in Tamarind Basket (crispy duck marinated in Chef’s special tamarind sauce). This is one restaurant where every taste preference can be accommodated. Try it soon, try it often, but do try it.
There is an interior seating capacity for 110, another 30 on the patio, and a private dining room under construction that will accommodate up to 50 people. Group parties can easily be accommodated.
6678 Arlington Blvd.
Falls Church, VA 22042
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