Alexandria, VA – Meet T-Zo! T-Zo Vietnamese Restaurant is the latest in restaurant destinations in the West End. Michael Bui and his wife Quynh Do have partnered with his parents to open this beautiful new space at 5774 Dow Avenue just off Van Dorn. Come and enjoy the fresh and natural taste of Hanoi comfort food.
Unlike other Vietnamese restaurants in the area, T-ZO features North Vietnamese cuisine. How is it different? There is less oil and less sweetness to the cooking. The broths used in the pho is deeper and richer in flavor. There is no Thai basil for the soup. What you will find are similarities in the lightness and freshness of the cooking. There are lots of fresh herbs and spices in many of their dishes. For example, the summer rolls come in several varieties including shrimp, avocado, or vegetarian. All are loaded with the featured ingredient and lots of herbs, all rolled in sheer rice paper. The spring rolls come with a fish sauce and vinegar-based sauce. The vegetarian version comes with a soy sauce-based sauce with no fish sauce so it is perfect for vegetarians and vegans. The spring rolls are lightly fried and filled with a choice of shrimp and pork or vegetarian.
There are at least six noodle dishes that are composed with rice vermicelli noodles. The Hanoi grilled pork vermicelli comes with grilled rice patties, vermicelli, and lots of fresh herbs including mint and cilantro. The veggies and tofu vermicelli substitutes tofu, mushrooms, and other fresh veg for meat. The stir-fried beef vermicelli is served with the same freshly cooked vermicelli and herbs. All are served with the same sauces that are served with the summer rolls. Pour the sauce over the dish and stir. Made to order, the dishes are light, fresh, and a delight and delicious.
We were treated to a special Vietnamese fruit panna cotta dessert with lychees and light cubes of panna cotta with mango, all served in a lightly sweet ‘soup’ and garnished with poppy seeds. It’s not your traditional American dessert but every bite leads to another!
Let’s spend some time talking about the most popular drink in Hanoi. It’s called Hanoi Egg Coffee. Yes, it is made with raw egg. As you can see in the video, the raw egg yolk is added to the traditionally used sweeten condensed milk and whipped. The hot or cold espresso coffee is topped with a thick later of whip. The egg creates an ultra-rich topping that tastes yummy, and when stirred into the coffee, makes a drink to swoon over. Don’t like coffee? Try the Vietnamese Egg Hot Chocolate. When it comes to cold drinks, the lemongrass limeade is a most refreshing combination of limeade, ginger, and lemongrass. You may as well order the large size because when you finish the smaller size, you’ll wish you had ordered the large. The same goes for the watermelon tea. Green tea is infused with watermelon juice and the ice shares space with junks of watermelon. Try them both. No liquor license yet but you should be able to bring in your own beer and wine.
This is a beautiful space, clean and spare. The walls are decorated with large and small hand painted baskets. They represent many of the lucky symbols of Viet Nam. I hope they decide to bring more in and offer them for sale. They are so lovely and I’m sure many guests would love to take one home. The room is nicely lit and there are lots of comfortable tables and chairs. There’s also a patio area where you are welcome to enjoy your meal. Be aware everything is made fresh to order so call ahead so your order is ready when you arrive. Carry out, delivery, or eat in, the food does not disappoint.
Photos by Debby Critchley