UPDATE: This restaurant has permanently closed.
I can't say that I was saddened when Blackbyrd closed, but I was a bit surprised as it was owned by the same people who own Marvin and Gibson, both of which are very successful and all of which are conveniently located next to each other on 14th Street. In its place now stands the Hanoi House, a Vietnamese restaurant, under the same ownership as the former Blackbyrd. The menu was created by Executive Chef James Claudio and his grandmother, Lap Claudio, who taught him the art of Vietnamese cooking in their family home.
As me and my friend glanced at the menu on the outside of the restaurant, we were most surprised at the prices -- $8 - $11 entrees on 14th Street? How will they survive? I guess it isn't much different from Busboys. Heck, we'll give it a try. We were there on a Saturday night only five days after they opened. We asked if we could put our name on the list and were told there was about a 30- to 45-minute wait. Before we waited that long though, I inquired as to whether the vegetarian items on the menu were vegan. The hostess went back to check with the chef and when she returned, she told us that he would let her know in a few minutes. After 10 minutes went by, we went back up to ask if the chef had gotten back to her. She had forgotten about us and immediately apologized and checked with him. The good news is that the items I asked about were vegan -- no fish sauce or egg wash is used in the vegetarian dishes. Great!
They told us we could grab a drink at Marvin or Gibson as they are under the same ownership and would accommodate us if we told them we were waiting for a seat at Hanoi House. That sounded great to us. And with that we were seated on the second floor of Gibson immediately. About an hour later, we realized she still had not texted us so we headed back over only to find out that it appeared they had forgotten about us again. Geez. I know it is a new restaurant, but these are basic principles of service.
They seated us immediately...at the bar. Apparently, there is no open seating so bar seating is reserved seating as well. So, if the next open spot is at the bar, then you either sit there or wait for a table. After having waited that long, the bar sounded good to us. We both started with a drink from the "strong drinks" menu. I ordered the Singapore Sling (Redux), which is made with gin, pineapple, cherry, pomegranate, hibiscus, lemon, orange, and juniper. It was quite fruity, but not overly so.
My friend wanted another drink that they were out of. Apparently all of the drinks are pre-mixed, which may mean that the main bartender wasn't there. So, he eventually ordered off menu. The drinks were quite good and when I found out that the cocktail program was created by a mixologist from The Gibson, that made perfect sense.
I started with the Cha Gio Chay -- crispy vegetarian spring rolls with dipping sauce. They recommended you eat them like lettuce rolls -- wrap the deep-fried spring roll in a lettuce leaf with fresh basil and cilantro. I really liked them, but they were a bit too deep-fried for me.
The noodle bowl I ordered was the Bun Voi Rau Thom, a bowl loaded with vermicelli, deep-fried tofu, carrots and fresh cilantro and basil with a broth. This dish was fine, but certainly wasn't anything to write home about. It was pretty plain and the tofu had been deep-fried so long that it was mostly fried crust without much tofu to taste. It was also pretty similar to the appetizer. But, for only $8 I guess it was fine.
The decor was similar to Blackbyrd's, but slightly different. The restaurant was very dark and decorated with red velvet curtains and red walls. The music was funky as it switched between dub step and several other genres.
Overall, the service at the bar was fine, but the hostess' service was disappointing. The food was fine, but nothing special. The ambiance was nice though. I definitely won't wait an hour to eat here ever again, but perhaps I'd drop by for a quick lunch one day. They are opening at a time when there are a lot of great restaurants in Logan Circle so I think they'll need to step up their game or they may soon be following in the footsteps of Blackbyrd.
2005 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009