Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Wrapped Present

I'm really a pretty horrible food photographer - no need to link to the various examples within this blog (it becomes pretty obvious why pics of plates, therefore, are not part of my particular schtick). The beautiful plate presentations at Present, however, make me wish I was much better.  I would have to liked to have 'borrowed' some of the pics from Present's website to give you an idea of what I'm talking about, but they've got good security, so I'll encourage you to take a look for yourself. Oh, wait, I did find this Tom Sietsema pic from his review (this is the jerky and papaya salad, which we've had before, and it's very good, especially the papaya. We just didn't have the table room this time!):

The family at large love love loves Vietnamese, but after some less than satisfactory outings at Four Sisters, we started looking for a preferable upscale selection.  Since finding Present about eighteen months ago, it has become our go-to. Between the whimsical dish names and the adorable staff, I cannot get enough. Frankly, I think it's better than Four Sisters has ever been (blasphemy, I know), even on the one occasion I went with a family friend of the famous sisters. Last Saturday's relaxing dinner with family was a great alternative to all of the other fun events going on to which I lacked an invite (no, I'm not jealous; no, not at all). Though, ok, here's my small tangent - seriously, Kim Kardashian (please, someone explain to me why she is relevant)  was invited to the WHCD?, but rumor (but of course now I can't find the link) has it that actual White House Press Corps members were lacking tickets. Something is wrong there.

On this occasion, for apps, we went with the Treasure from the Sea, a salad of pineapple, shrimp, julienne vegetables, and calamari, served in a carved out pineapple. So very refreshing and light.

... and the Smokey Petals, baby clam served in a rice cracker 'shell' (fairly sure that this is my favorite item on the menu). Smoky is an appropriate descriptive term; I love this dish so much that I'm itching to try other baby clam fare.

...and the Silken Shawl Autumn Rolls, pork and shrimp "rolled" with vermicelli noodles, and flash fried, one of our consistent favorites.

We also almost always get the Mosaic Pathway, a cellophane noodle dish with lump crab. This particular instance did not live up to prior experiences, but was still tasty. Another tasty dish was (gotta love this name) Gift from the Sea on a Fresh Haystack, egg noodles with crab, shrimp, calamari, and sauteed vegetables.

Did I mention that my father-in-law has a hollow leg? Yes, there were more dishes. Fish on the Steamboat, a whole steamed red snapper (get the whole fish, served with the add-on wrapper option, with bean sprouts, bananas, cucumbers, and pineapple). The accompanying shrimp paste we could have done without - the waiter's quote regarding the sauce was entirely accurate - people either love it or hate it - we were of the latter category.

And finally (yes, I'm wrapping up), tis the season for soft shell crabs, which Present eclectically calls Basking on a Sandy Beach. It's not the best fry I've ever had, but the accompanying salt/pepper/vinegar/chili paste sauce is zesty and unique.

As always, the service was outstanding, friendly, outgoing (especially the hostesses, who basically seemed willing to babysit while we dined), and informative. I adore the people here. I always leave feeling pretty special, and well, that's pretty special in and of itself. But, not to be ignored is the fact that the food, is pretty, and special, as well.

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