Nhu Lan Sandwich Shop: 6763 Wilson Blvd #14, Falls Church, VA 22044 (in Eden Center); www.nhulansandwich.com; (703) 532-9009
When we first tried to find Nhu Lahn, the effort turned into a self-guided walking tour of Eden Center. We were following an aroma, then got distracted by all the bakeries and competitors. No sign for Nhu Lahn is visible from outside the main shopping complex. So we ended up buying some tamarind bites (mút ô mai me) from a Vietnamese bakery around the corner, as stocking stuffers, and ended the “tour” at Kao Sarn Thai Street Food (see our first review).
We found the sandwich shop on a second try — the place was open, but empty; no one there to take our order.
Third try, then… Let’s start with the location: You’ll find this cramped spot through the door to the left of Cho Eden Supermarket. (That’s an all-in-one Asian mega-grocer, like a Super H-Mart, with a takeaway counter. We’ll hit Cho Eden in a future review — look forward to Spicy Chicken Hearts.) For Nhu Lahn, aim not for the doorway to the supermarket itself, but the one to the left of that and to the right of a skin-care and make-up store. Enter between the lit “EDEN” and “CHO EDEN SUPERMARKET” signs overhead, then go straight back. The bánh mì are on your left, in front of a video-and-CD store offering all-Vietnamese titles. Eden Center is labyrinthine in places, and this is one such place.
There’s room for a couple of tables inside the shop, maybe, but they use that space to stock cases of sugary soda instead. There are a few tables set up in the hallway.
We try the #8: Ca — warm sardines on a toasted baguette. It’s juicy but the fish-to-bread ratio is a bit low for our taste; maybe there’s more filling in the chicken sandwich. We’ll have to try that the next time we’re here, hungry and in a (big) hurry.
Anyway, the fish sandwich is fresh and warm and filling. If juicy sardines don’t sound like much of a show-stopper, they spice it up with fresh seasonings and toppings: Mustard greens, tomatoes, onions and pickled carrots add texture that helps to undersell the tinned-fish headliner. The crispy french bread is spread with a thin layer of mayo and sprinkled with cilantro.
With all the dining options at Eden Center, Nu Lahn stands out for its quick service — this is a no-frills take-out counter, and no strangers to pork here (see menu below). It’s like a really good street car without wheels, charging the least you’ll pay anywhere for a made-to-order sandwich.
That’s “two down” for our Seven Corners Dining series, several dozen to go…