Washington Post Express

Washington Post

  • Washington Post

    Food Section

    September 11, 2002

    "No Number fifty one?" asked the waiter. He stopped scribbling and glanced at us, eyebrows raised. In close to three years of ordering weekly takeout from Nam-Viet Pho-79, our neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant, never before, nor since have we bypassed Number Fifty-One. Each time, we rush home, unlatch the lid of plain Styrofoam container, and behold! Beneath a sprinkling of finely chopped peanuts, paper-thin fired shallots and an occasional speck of cilantro lies a tangle of glistening rice noodles slicked with oil, sugar intertwined with slivers of poached chicken, chunks of roast pork, a few token minuscule shrimp, ribbons of softly scrambled egg, sauteed half moons of yellow and red onion and the occasional inch-long length of green scallion. The proper name for the Number Fifty-One, Banh Pho Xao, translates quite simply as "stir-fried noodles." But simple they are not.Their subtlety, however is lost on some. The noodles are less peanut-y than pad Thai, not as dense as drunken noodles and nothing at all like (shudder) lo mein. Their recipe orgininated in South Vietnam in the restaurant kitchen of Ngoc Anh Tran's grandfather, and was passed down first to her father, then to Tran. When she and her husband, Thoi Nguyen, founded Nam-Viet in 1986, they modified the recipe slightly and changed the name to Extravagant Noodles. (The menu, once rife with wonderful three and four syllable adjectives, has since been revamped. Number Fifty-One is now called Nam-Viet Stir Fried Noodles.) We didn't order Number Fifty-One that night for the fear of the noodles might become a commonplace. But all it took was one Saterday morning without Extravagant Omelet eggs with leftovers of Number Fifty-One, to convince us otherwise.


  • The Washingtonian

    Nam Viet Pho

    January 1999

    For a quick, light, satisfying meal before or after a movie at the Uptown Theater, consider one of the excellent meal-in-a- bowl soups at Nam-Viet Pho 79. If you've outgrown the wonton soup at Chinese restaurants, try Nam Viet's Vietnamese interpretation, with its melt-in- your-mouth dumplings and generous garnish of roast pork; for something elegantly delicate, look to the Saigon Pork-and-Shrimp Yellow-Noodle Soup; or for a seafood feast that wont weigh you down, choose the rice-noodle soup with shrimp, scallops squid, and fishballs. Skip the pho here, its pleasant but no match for the variously garnished beef-noodle soup at Vietnamese soup kitchen in Virginia, in favor of the red-hot Special Hue Spicy Beef with Noodle Soup.

    A little more than two years after it opened to favorable reviews, Nam-Viet Pho 79 is now staking a claim to the title of the best Vietnamese restaurant in the District. Veterans of the local Vietnamese circuit who sample such house specialties as a robustly seasoned chicken curry spiked with slivers of fresh ginger; the garlicky Hanoi Grilled Pork; a casserole of plump shrimp with quartered shallots, inundated in caramel sauce; and Vietnamese Orange Chicken may well be inclined to agree that this kitchen matches the best in Northern Virginia.

Washington Post Magazine

  • The Washington Post Magazine

    Nights To Remember

    October 18, 1998

    While most of the area's early Vietnamese restaurants have remained static and have grown a little shabby, losing ground in the increasing competition, Nam-Viet has only improved. That's what shows in its big, bright new in-town branch: a matter-of-fact excellence. While the atmosphere is hardly cozy or personal, and the service seems harried, every dish shows care. The meats and fish are plump and juicy, the vegetables bright and crisp, and the sauces, most with a touch of sweetness and some curry fire are light-textured and highly perfumed. The long menu is too much to explore on one visit, but you can safely put yourself in the hands of your waiter. The shrimp toast is unusual, with a crisp layer of rice paper on the bottom and a haunting flavor. Grilled pork and beef dishes are crusty and fetchingly marinated. But the restaurant's unique quality shows in fish dishes, grilled, curried or braised in a sweet-salty caramel and black pepper sauce. Seek it out, to be reminded how light and delicate yet intruiging Vietnamese cooking can be.