I'm a suggestible person. Not long after I moved to DC, someone in my fellowship program remarked (with pride) that they never left the District -- meaning that they never ventured into the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. It only took a couple of times getting lost in the Arlington sprawl for me to begin shunning the trip across the bridge as well. I happily took up the mantle of my fellow urbanites and became as smug as everyone else. No suburbs of Northern Virginia for me, no way, no thanks.
In theory, I knew that the best ethnic food was across that bridge, and cheaper too. The foodie in me wanted to be lured by the Asian supermarket with its lush produce and stunning seafood selection; the anthropologist within tried to get interested in the cultural geography. Nothing worked. I remained tethered to DC.
But finally, 10 years later, a fraying of the rope. Huong Viet Restaurant in the Eden Center has rocked my world. It's not as if I had never been to the Eden Center (aka Little Saigon) before. I had -- once. But somehow, back then, it seemed like just another strip mall to me. Huong Viet is another story. First dish out was lemongrass mussels with their deep, satisfying flavor; I live for dishes like this one. As I began to eat like a person starved, I had to force myself to remember that this was a shared dish and not hog the entire bowl. So I savored the molluscs slowly, relishing each one so that the others might get their share (well, I tried). Lychee bubble tea hit another sweet spot. I grew up eating cold fresh lychees on hot summer days, and this drink evoked those childhood flavors so well, a concentrate of memory. Besides, it complemented the mussels perfectly. While I was being swept away by the lemongrass and the lychees, more plates arrived. They blurred together as something inside me gave way. I resolved to master the featureless byways of NoVa, and remake the bridge into a gateway to foodie paradise, rather than a barrier. It's about time.
Dishes To Die For: lemongrass mussels; lychee bubble tea