Around F.C.

New Restaurant Lantern House Shines a Light on Vietnamese Food

One of the many traditional Vietnamese dishes that Lantern House specializes in is the banh mi, a crunchy, savory sandwich consisting of a toasted baguette and filled with meat and pickled vegetables. (Photo: Patricia Leslie)

It’s all in the family at the new Lantern House “Viet Bistro” in the West End Plaza on West Broad Street.

Three generations of the Tran family have been restaurateurs whose experience and drive have enabled them to start a pho restaurant in Falls Church with “authentic Vietnam cuisine.”

Last Saturday, between the lunch and dinner rush, Annie Tran, one of Lantern’s owners, took time from the eatery’s many chores to sit down at one of her table tops and talk about her family’s latest entry in the world of dining out in Falls Church.

Joining her to fill in details was her sister, Hanh Payne, who helps at the restaurant.

“Passion” for the business was a word both sisters used independently to describe their family’s drive to be successful.

A huge selection — with everything from pho noodles, a traditional Vietnamese dish, to banh mi baguettes — fills the menu which the owners frequently update, keeping the most popular items, of course.

Most selections come with optional chicken, beef, tofu or pork. “Caramelized fish in a clay pot” ($16.85), deep fried squid ($13.85), and young lotus root salad with seafood ($14.85) are some examples of the variety, not to forget the freshly squeezed orange juice ($5.85).

Fresh veggie or tofu rolls with lettuce, other greens and toppings plus meat are available from $5.95 to $6.95.
Payne said that milk tea options of green, jasmine, honey black and oolong at $4.85 have extra toppings like boba, coconut, rainbow or coffee jelly ($1.15).

“We cook fresh,” Tran said. “Everything has to be fresh,” so sometimes the cooking prep time of 15 to 20 minutes may be too long for some customers. The dishes are all “made-to-order.”

I ordered the banh mi sandwich baguette with chicken ($9.45) which was huge and enough to easily last me two, maybe three, meals. A tangy barbecue sauce brings out the flavors and the piled, melded cucumber, pickled veggies, and cilantro satisfied my hunger and crunchy needs.

Lantern House has many choices of pho ($7.45 to $13.85), which includes rice noodles, onions, scallions and cilantro and toppings of bean sprouts, jalapenos, lime, basil and optional meat.

I tried the pho seafood ($13.85) with oysters in the shell, scallops, and shrimp, and only later did I realize I was supposed to combine the foods with the spicy ginger soup! Nevertheless, the dish was satisfying and its low cal ingredients made me feel quite healthy and vigorous, almost enough pep to springboard to a championship. (Fairfax County’s Senior Olympics are coming up.)

Lantern House is owned by Annie Tran (on right), with her sister, Hanh Payne, helping out with the new restaurant’s day-to-day responsibilities. (Photo: Patricia Leslie)

For extra strength per my Olympics practice, I finished with a delicious mango smoothie ($5.95), tasty and quite filling. (No need to count calories when you are in competition.) Other smoothie flavors are coconut, strawberry, avocado, lychee (a tropical fruit), taro (a starchy vegetable with a sweet taste), pineapple and durian (a tree fruit).

The sisters’ parents have had a restaurant in Annandale, though it was their brother, another owner, who heard his friends and neighbors wanting a new area eatery in Falls Church. And so, Lantern House was born right under the Washington & Old Dominion trail overpass. Tran wanted a place with a name that was easy to remember and “lanterns” fit the bill.

Tran has decorated the restaurant’s outside as well as its interior with colorful lamps she bought in Vietnam. (After you enter the parking lot, you can’t miss the hanging lanterns.)

The family worked on building out the restaurant for a year before it opened, scrupulously following the changes Falls Church regulators dictated and required throughout the long preparation to open doors, knowing the city’s code and specifications were necessary to launch. The Trans were not complaining.

“We have a lot of support from the neighbors who are so happy we are here,” Payne smiled. To meet their demands, Lantern House has applied for a liquor license approval, which is expected any day.

Open for about two months now, business has been “pretty good,” Tran said. She realizes her good fortune to have family members like Payne who help out during the recent labor shortage as workers are in high demand everywhere.

Tran’s family’s fourth generation stands at the ready to enter the business. Her son, now in college, has shown a “passion” for restauranting, but his mom prefers to wait and see. Maybe by then, the majority of their American customers will know what to do with the plain, to-go soup.

The Lantern House restaurant has indoor and outside seating under the lanterns. To save waiting on orders, call ahead.

The Lantern House is located at 1067 West Broad St., Falls Church 22046. (703) 268-2878. Lanternhouseva.co. Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.