On the 600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, there’s a storefront that has intrigued me for more than a year.  The floor-to-ceiling glass windows have been covered by black plastic from time to time, but they’ve since come down and revealed something like the ruins of Pompey.  A tableau of a restaurant, frozen in time.  Place settings went untouched.  Quality glassware acquired a thick layer of dust.  And no one seemed to know just what was happening with Locanda, the refined Italian eatery that closed so suddenly at the end of last May.

All that is about to change for the better, as the cousin team of Khoa and Denise Nguyen prepare to open a new Vietnamese restaurant they’re calling Ba Bay.  If those names sound familiar, it’s probably not because you saw them on short-lived cooking competition show Chopping Block last year (few people did, which is why the show was canceled so quickly).  But they decided that they enjoyed the experience enough that they would continue the partnership.

I spoke with Denise a few weeks ago and have been trading emails with her since.  This weekend, she and Khoa went back to their roots to learn the secrets to some classic family recipes with their mothers – and to put their own spin on a few dishes, as well.

After the jump, some more details about what to expect when Ba Bay opens (and when that might be). (more…)

I have a long term love affair with some foods (sushi, gelato, cookie dough). Others are casual friends with benefits, coming into my kitchen when the season strikes (brats on the grill, hot chocolate). A few are embarrassing lapses of judgement I’d rather forget (Hot Pockets, I’m looking at you). One of the benefits of living in a diverse city like DC is that there are always new foods on the horizon, a new flirtation just around the corner.

So really my relationship with Vietnamese food is more along the lines of giving each other the casual whats-up head nod at parties. We haven’t really gotten serious. My introduction centers mainly on pho, that glorious beefy noodle soup that warms my soul every winter. I’ve also indulged in the occasional banh mi sandwich.

Make no mistake – I’m the one missing out by not trying to get to know Vietnamese a little better. So for our first official date, I wanted to go to the best: Four Sisters. There are an abundance of modest mom-and-pop Vietnamese restaurants in the DC/NoVa area but the restaurant that always rises to the top of the class with praise is Four Sisters. (more…)