There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
The firefighter-yellow banner to the left of the entrance tells you the restaurant is called Mi La Cay Noodle House, a name echoed by the neon lights above the short set of stairs leading to the place.
But then you look to the right (see pic below) and notice another sign hovering over the establishment. It reads: Song Phat Noodle and Grill. I half wondered if there weren’t two noodle shops now in the tiny space that used to house Nava Thai.
So before I could order anything, I had to clear up this dueling noodle shop mess.
The woman who took our order explained that, about six weeks ago, the owners of Song Phat (who happen to own the neighboring Hung Phat grocery store) sold the noodle soup to some family members. The chef remains the same, she said, although the new owners decided to expand the menu to include stir-fry and grill dishes. I guess it was enough of a change to merit a wholesale rebranding of the place, too.
Regardless, Mi La Cay leans more Vietnamese than the previous occupant — well, I guess I should say than the previous occupant before the previous, short-lived occupant. Nava Thai, in other words.
I don’t think Mi La Cay made as strong a first impression with me as Nava Thai did in August 2007, but then again, that’s a high bar to clear. My dining guest and I ordered the pho with eye of round, brisket and soft tendon as well as the duck curry with “sweet potatoes.”
The pho broth was practically liquid butter, which made me regret that I ordered the side of melted fat and spring onions, like I did recently at Toan in Silver Spring. The broth was already rich enough, though, strange to say, not beefy enough for my tastes. I found the noodle soup more fatty and rounded, not deep and complex as I like my pho.
The curry was a massive bowl crowded with large, bone-in pieces of the bird, along with a dark crimson wedge of duck blood and some regular ol’ potatoes that had been “sweetened” from lounging in what tasted like a coconut milk-based broth. The entree required that you remove the parts from the bowl, slice the meat on a separate plate, and return the carvings back to the bowl. The process was rather unwieldy but rewarded you with an altogether flavorful curry, short on heat perhaps but rich in creamy, aromatic pleasures.