I've written this review a few times now. I'm always on the lookout for good Vietnamese places and like to suggest them to friends who have had less Vietnamese. A friend from out of town came in for dinner and the group chose Green Papaya in Bethesda. Honestly, almost a week later, I am still conflicted about whether I really enjoyed it or not.
The service was good and the restaurant is lovely, but I kept finding myself wishing I was at Minh's in Arlington. Bun Thit Nuong (pork over vermicelli noodles) was noticeably more complex and flavorful than Bun Tom Nuong (shrimp over vermicelli noodles). The Bun Tom Nuong, which cost considerably more than Minh's, was served on a bed of clumpy overcooked vermicelli. Much of the flavor seemed to stay on the shell. While tasty, I was hoping for better. Appetizer spring rolls were well-prepared and satisfying, though, again, I found myself thinking about Minh's.
I was also surprised that the servers had not heard of hoisin or soda chanh, two items I love at most Vietnamese restaurants. Green Papaya does have pho on the menu which is typically served with hoisin and siracha. It made me wonder what they do serve it with since hoisin was definitely a mystery.
I think this explains why reviewers go to a restaurant several times. I'd like to see the flavor kicked up a bit and for the vermicelli to be served correctly. I'll update when I go back. Anyone else out there tried it? What am I missing?
I should note that my dining companions really seemed to enjoy their meals and that the company, service, and atmosphere was delightful. just hoping it clicks next time.