Unlike Four Sisters, Fall Church’s other perennial favorite for Vietnamese cooking, Present enjoyed a meteoric rise almost from the day it opened. Yours truly contributed to the hype last year, when I called it, without much hesitation, the “area’s best Vietnamese restaurant.” Like others who’ve visited Present since its initial rush of positive press, I’ve sampled a few plates that haven’t matched its now-lofty reputation, including a deep-fried tuna that hit the table DOA, barely tripping the taste buds. Has this made me reconsider my superlative? Of course. But I’ve come to the conclusion that, despite some recent gaffes, chef Luong Tran and his Present team continue to produce the most thought-provoking and detail-oriented Vietnamese cooking in the area. Is it always the best? I guess that depends on whether the kitchen is hitting its marks, which tells you something about the restaurant’s ability to handle crowds and a crush of ticket orders. Present would do well to study Four Sisters, which has been a model of consistency for years, even when the place is overrun with waiting diners.

6678 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church (703) 531-1881

Photo by Darrow Montgomery