Vietnamese cuisine is my favorite. I could eat it every day and I've been in perpetual mourning since the closing of Bien Thuy, although I like Com very much too.
But Chateau de Saigon (4300 Buford Hwy., 404-929-0034), open only a week, sets a new standard for our city. I've eaten there twice already and I've barely dented its enormous menu. The chef here grew up with Chinese and Vietnamese parents, speaks both languages and cooks both cuisines. The staff here, including the owner, seems to mainly be American-born Vietnamese, so you'll get a much more thorough explanation of the dishes here than you do at the usual Vietnamese cafe.
At one dinner, we started with two appetizers unique to this restaurant (top photo). One was strips of spicy pork and a pencil-thin, crispy roll wrapped in rice paper with mint, cucumber and lettuce. The other (foreground of the picture) was ground shrimp fried in a tofu wrapper.
One entree (above, right) was lemongrass beef wrapped in wild betal leaves. (The owner, Jimmy, told us repeatedly that this differed from Com's dish in that the leaf is "wild, from the vine, rather than from a tree.") We wrapped the stuffed leaves in rice paper along with vermicelli, herbs and -- most wonderful --star fruit and plantains.
We also tried one of the Chinese dishes -- flat rice noodles with shrimp, scallops and squid (above, left). The noodles, new to me, were even better than the seafood, although all of it was fresh and flavorful too. There are several pages of noodle dishes, including 17 bun dishes.
If you are going to only one restaurant this week, let this be it. The restaurant is located about a half-mile north of Buford Highway's intersection with Dresden Drive. It's in a new strip mall, with several other new Vietnamese cafes and a Latino night club.
I'll have more to say in "Grazing" soon.
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