I arrived at Rice Paper at 12 noon, meeting a friend for lunch at 12:15, and noticing there was only one table, a two-top, left in the restaurant. I didn’t want to chance being shut out (this time next month, my friend will have two children instead of one), so I went ahead and let a gentleman seat me.
Sitting alone for awhile, and knowing we had to be gone by 1 PM, I went ahead and ordered myself a drink, and made an executive decision by getting a cold salad for us to split. Soda Sữa Hột Gà ($4) is a Beaten Egg Soda, and seems to be a lemonade-based, slightly carbonated drink, slightly thickened by beaten egg whites (it’s certainly possible there was some yolk in there too). If you want to try something new, this is light, refreshing, and only moderately sweet – this is a great soda.
Feeling pressure from a completely full restaurant, I ordered us a Gỏi Ngó Sen Tôm Thịt ($11), a Young Lotus Salad with Shrimp and Pork. My friend arrived several minutes after the salad, and we enjoyed a fairly sweet salad, not comprised of the round, clock-dial slices of lotus root you’re accustomed to seeing, but rather with very white-colored stems (or stalks), marinated in a sugared-down vinegar, and coming with middling, somewhat granular-textured pork, and decent, lightly steamed shrimp. It was “okay,” but not something I’d rush to order again because it tasted like every other sweet, vinegary Vietnamese salad you’ve had a million times in your life, with nothing about it emerging as outstanding.
Being nearly nine-months pregnant makes you want a light, cool lunch on a hot day, and so we ordered Gỏi Cuốn ($4) two garden rolls, cut in half to make four pieces, and these, too, were pretty much standard-issue garden rolls – quite good, but nothing out of the ordinary (nor were we expecting anything out of the ordinary, as we were ordering extremely “safely”). Some things take precedence over duck testicles, which is what I had the last time I was here.
And to round out a light lunch sampling, Cơm Chim Cút ($10), Marinated Roast Quails on Jasmine Rice – this was the one outstanding dish of the meal, the quails extremely generous in quantity, perfectly marinated, and with the skin beautifully crisped and the dark meat inside succulent and flavorful. This is number 40 on the menu, and I highly recommend it to diners at Rice Paper – quail is a very low-profit item for restaurants, and $10 for this dish was more than just fair; it was flat-out inexpensive.
To summarize, we didn’t really test the kitchen at Rice Paper, but the one really “culinary” dish we ordered was a complete winner – it couldn’t have been much better, and even the large scoop of Jasmine Rice was very well cooked. As we left Rice Paper at 1 PM, there was a line out the door of perhaps 7-8 people – this is the most popular restaurant in Eden Center right now, and for good reason.