Restaurant Week Review: Del Campo lunch (oh wait, NOT)

I wanted to do at least one Restaurant Week lunch this summer, but was limited to spots that were open for lunch/brunch on the weekend. Del Campo was listed on the Restaurant Week website as offering lunch, and their menu look fantastic (why hellloooooo prime rib) so after shooting an email out to see who would be available, I made a reservation online for three people. The morning of our reservation, the Del Campo hostess called to confirm my reservation, before letting me know that they would be offering neither their standard bottomless, all-you-can-eat brunch (for $45), OR the Restaurant Week menu (three courses for $22). Instead, they would only be offering their a la carte menu. This was disappointing and unexpected, so I cancelled our reservation.

After browsing through the RW list, A and I could not find anything that stood out to us. I knew I would be starving and ready to EAT after my long run though, but I also knew I would want something satisfying and not too pricey. The obvious answer to this was Eden Center. A and Nina of course were on board (um, what kind of sociopath would turn down Vietnamese food?), so after sweating out all the alcohol in my system from the previous night, I loaded up my trusty Camry with two other hungry girls and we headed across the river to Falls Church. On the way there, I informed Nina, who was a newbie to A and my Eden Center adventures, that the following things would be occurring (no negotiations allowed):

  1. Rice Paper or bust.
  2. We would be ordering quail as an appetizer.
  3. We will order too much food.
  4. We will digest the mountain of food consumed by walking around the international grocery store afterwards.

After parking in the back lot of the shopping center, we discovered that there was apparently some kind of karaoke event going on along the sidewalk. This is my father’s absolute worst nightmare, and I could only imagine what he would have said had he witnessed the people screaming along to Vietnamese music as everyone tried to enjoy their Sunday lunches. I’m not sure if the restaurants were busier because people were crowding Eden Center waiting for their turn on the mic, or if the restaurants were more packed because people were trying to escape the singing outside. We put our names down for Rice Paper and were told that it would be approximately a 20 minute wait, which was the perfect amount of time to grab bubble tea and do a short walk (in the opposite direction of the singing).

I put in the order for quail as soon as we were seated at Rice Paper, before opening the menus, and it arrived shortly afterwards. Vietnamese quail is just amazing, and one of my favorite dishes. As usual, the crispy roasted quail was juicy, perfectly seasoned, and exactly what my body needed after the run (sodium? check. protein? check. extra sodium from the salt, pepper and lime dipping sauce? okay maybe unnecessary but still, check). I mean, just look at that skin. I imagine this is how 12 year old boys feel when they see supermodels baring skin in tiny bikinis.

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For our second starter, we went with the Gỏi Hải Sản (salad of pineapple, carrots, onions, lemongrass, roasted peanuts, shrimp, calamari, and scallops over lettuce and tomatoes). This was the first time I have ordered this dish at Rice Paper, and it did not disappoint. The generous seafood toppings, and sweet fruit mixed together were a fantastic light shared dish. For our main dishes, we actually all ordered the same thing: the Rice Paper Combo Platter (which came with grilled squid and scallops, grilled pork, and grilled beef wrapped in grape leaves). This came with vegetables, noodles and dried rice paper.

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Everything on this plate was great, and there was bit of everything I could want to eat. I had fun teaching N how to dip the rice paper in the water to make little rolls (spreading the gospel wherever I go, folks), and she was making her little Vietnamese burritos like a pro in no time. All three of us agreed that the dish hit the spot. The seafood was cooked perfectly (nothing was too chewy), the pork and beef were smoky, tender, and satisfying. I ate until my stomach hurt, and yet there was still more food on my plate. I ended up taking about a third of the food home, which made for the best lunch the next day although the office microwave may have smelled like fish sauce for a few minutes afterwards.

After we pushed our bodies to the limit (in terms of eating, not in terms of any productive physical activity), we headed over to the Asian grocery and picked up necessary supplies like dried anchovies, quail eggs, chili oil and dragonfruit. It was little tough to push the cart when my stomach was telling me that I needed to be horizontal, but it probably did help to move around at least a little. It was another productive Sunday at Eden Center, the highlight being the delectable food at Rice Paper. Thanks Eden Center for salvaging our weekend after discovering that Del Campo did not want to cooperate with our Sunday food goals.

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