Or Four Sisters if you like...Amy and I were there Sunday night (Mother's Day) for a last-minute dinner, because I failed to make any reservations to celebrate her first Mother's day. Yeah, I know, I'm horrible and how dare I forget such an important day and yada yada yada -- nevermind the flowers I got her last Thursday or the massage, facial, and manicure package I got her at Serenity Day Spa down the street. Oh and yes, I finally went to a restaurant in Virginia and I'm writing about it!
So I called to make a reservation at about 4:00 PM -- you know me, Mr. Plan Ahead and it turned out they don't take reservations. I asked how long the wait would be at around 7 or 7:30 PM which was when we planned to arrive, and the person on the phone said it should only be about 15 minutes. OK. Wonderful. When 6:30 PM rolled around, I was starving. I dragged Amy upstairs to get ready and then we left.
Now, the last time I went to Four Sisters was four years ago when I lived all the way out in Gaithersburg of all places (not that there's anything wrong with that). I remembered it being very good, but that was a long time ago, when I had far less taste than I do now. Seriously, my taste buds have come a long way since then. There are many places that I used to frequent back then and I thought were fine quality eateries that I'd be embarrassed to walk into today. But with all respect to Tom Sietsema and just about every other food critic in the area that says Four Sisters is great Vietnamese food, I didn't have much to worry about. I'll tell you right now that I'm not going to say anything different than what you can read in The Post or Washingtonian. Our meal was great. So you can keep reading if you want to.
When we arrived around 7, the parking lot was a complete sprawling mess. I think everyone decided to go to the Eden Shopping Center that night because parking spaces were a rare commodity. I drove up and down a couple aisles and then gave up and had Amy run in to put our name on the list. I was really worried that the hostess was full of shit when she told me that it would be a 15-minute wait. After driving around for 15 minutes and having three or four nearly-found parking spots, I finally was able to snag a spot in the front row where no one was looking. Lucky me! When I got inside, Amy still hadn't given her name to the hostess, but she said that no one was waiting and they were just seating people as they greeted them. Phew, so it wasn't as bad as the parking lot looked.
Overall, the restaurant hasn't changed much -- it still has the feel of a family diner, only slightly nicer and it serves alcohol. We were coming in after the dinner rush and the servers were working frantically to keep up the pace. We were seated and handed menus. The menus were so large that they made it almost impossible to make an educated decision. I'd go into detail about it, but I'd spend the rest of this post describing the menu to you.
I was really in the mood for beef -- I didn't care what it was -- I wanted it to be beef. I'm not sure why exactly, but I'm sure it had something to do with the smell in the air. I saw on the menu that Four Sisters has a 7-course beef menu, so I went for that. And Amy wanted the five-spice beef that she remembered was so good from our last trip there -- so good in fact, that she still remembered the taste of it four years later.
My food started coming out pretty soon after we ordered. The first dish was beef fondue - strips of very lean, rare beef that I was supposed to cook in a sweet onion fondue. I could then mix the beef with fresh greens like basil and mint and wrap them in rice paper together. A few minutes later, before I could finish taking pictures (See my photo album) of the first dish, the second dish appeared which turned out to be my favorite dish of the meal. The beef salad was made with chilled, lean strips of beef with red onion, basil, mint, and lime juice. I was very impressed with how much I enjoyed this dish with its complex sweet and sour flavors.
Either the Vietnamese eat really fast, or I was just a slow eater Sunday night. A third dish suddenly appeared, there was no room on our small table, and I had no clean plates to clear. The expeditor pushed some plates around and found some room -- I guess he was used to making room on those small tables. Right about this time, I started to feel a bit overwhelmed. I was only half way done with my first two dishes and I had yet to even touch the latest dish which was actually three different courses in itself -- ground beef, rice and onions wrapped in grape leaves; grilled beef with garlic; and ground beef and ginger kabobs (at least that's what they looked and tasted like, the real name is escaping me -- damn me for not taking notes). I found the ground beef in grape leaves a little bland. It might have been the fact that the other dishes had so much flavor and seasoning on them -- the ground beef with garlic was, well, loaded with garlic, much like the beef kabob was loaded with ginger.
The next course actually took a little longer to come out, so I had some time to catch up. If they attempted to bring out another dish, there wouldn't have been any room. Finally, I finished the first two courses and they brought out the sixth and seventh course, which really made up a single course. The first was a thick beef broth with rice and the other was a very large beef meatball the size of my hand which I mashed up into bite-sized bits and placed in the soup. The beef broth was slightly salty, but not too salty. The meatball also had rice in it so this dish turned out to be significantly filling. Whoever said "Chicken soup is good for the soul" has never had this soup.
Amy had a little of her five-spice beef left, so I ended up eating a little of her dish as well. I always have liked Four Sisters' five-spice beef ever since the first time we ordered it. They give you four or five skewers of grilled, spiced tenderloin strips, rice paper, a bunch of fresh herbs, cucumbers, vermicelli and carrot shavings. You then take all of the ingredients, wrap them in a piece of rice paper, and dip it in their freshmade sauce. One complaint that I had about this trip is that the rice paper was a little stale. Maybe they left ours sitting near a stove for a little long, but the edges were a bit dried out and chewy. Other than that, everything was great. We skipped dessert. These days, Amy can barely finish her main course, let alone have dessert, and I was full after eight different beef dishes. One other thing worth mentioning is that Amy ordered the lemonade which turned out to be real, fresh-squeezed lemonade -- not that Minute Maid sludge that most restaurants serve out of the fountain.
Our server was courteous and friendly, and when she had time she made sure we knew how to eat what was in front of us. She was working pretty hard and doing her best to get around to all of her tables quickly without being too brusque. Four Sisters has a fairly large floor staff of waiters, expeditors, and bus people. All of them make for a fairly smooth dining experience. I can't say that the service is great every trip we've made to Four Sisters, but this time I can.
The bill after two entrees, two beers and two lemonades was about $40. My seven courses of beef were $18 total and made up a majority of the bill. Overall, a very reasonably-priced meal and definitley on the cheap eats list. Four Sisters is also a great place to go with a large goup of people because the larger tables have lazy susans that make it easy to order many different dishes and share them all. Next time I go, I plan to go with a bunch of friends and order as many different dishes as possible.
Four Sisters (Huong Que)
6769 Wilson Blvd.
Falls Church, VA 22044
Fri-Sat 10:30 am-11 pm
Sun-Thu 10:30 am-10 pm
Dress Code: Casual
Parking: Strip mall parking lot
Reservations: Not taken
Smoking: Not allowed
Nearest Metro: East Falls Church (Orange Line)