Atmosphere: Quiet and casual.
Price range: Moderate; most entrees are about $5.
.Hours: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily; closed Mondays.
Special facilities: Highchairs; accessible to the handicapped.
Credit cards: None; personal checks accept.
Reservations: Not necessary.* Chez Juliette is like many a plain woman - beneath the ordinary exterior are some fascinating things.
On many excursions through Falls Church, we had dismissed the restaurant because of its dingy exterior with a "perhaps, some time . . . . " We were finally urged to go by a friend who raved about the French lunch she had there.
On the night we decided to go, there was only one other patron, a man, who between sips of the soft drink was complaining to the waiter about the weather. He looked right at home the way men do in the neighborhood pub, for the overall effect of Chez Juliette is down home.
Despite the red linen tablecloths and fresh mums at each table, our waiter was in jeans, and an old 7-up clock hung on the wall. A large refrigertor case sat to one side of the dining room, used as prop for some folded lawn chairs. But the aroma of French and Vietamese cooking filled the dining room through the open kitchen door.
Making the preparations, we later learned, was Juliette Bach, for whom the resturant is named, and her mother. The Vietnamese family opened the restaurant a little more than a year ago with Juliette's father cooking the French food, and her mother, the Vietnamese. When Juliette's father had a heart attack a few months ago, Juliette quit school and took over the French duties.
Although the French side of the menu looked tempting - a variety of fish, chicken, beef, lamb and veal dishes with the most expensive of them only $5.50 - we decided to stay with our favourite cuisine, Vietnamese.
It was difficult to choose from the 22 main dishes, but we finally settled on the pork tenderloin in sweet and sour sauce, $5, and brioled seasoned beef, $4.50.
Other specialities, which looked as if they desseved trying on our next visit - for we're sure to return - included shrimp fritters in sweet plum sauce, leaf wrapped beef grilled with herbs, beef with onion and potato in butter sauce and chicken rice seasoned and cooked in a clay pot.
To round out our dinner, my jasmine tea served in a pretty white tea pot. Next came the rolls and soup, both spicy and hot. The rolls are sheets of rice paper stuffed with highly seasoned meat, shrimp and vegetables, then deep fried. A small dish of the traditional fish sauce accompanied them. The soup, a broth with flecks of crab meat and pieces of asparagus, was equally peppery and good, although a bit too much for my son, who refused a second bite after a large gulp of milk.
He enjoyed the main dishes, however, as much as we did. The pork was extremely fine cut, dipped in a batter of two flours and egg white and much crisper and finer than the Chinese version. The sauce outshone the Chinese as well, for it was thin, just enough to flavor the meat without overshadowing it.
The beef also was a nice surprise. Thin slices, lightly seasoned, were wrapped around a sweet piece of onion, then rolled into a slice of bacon and grilled for a delicious effect. Bowls of rice accompanied the meal.
After dinner my husband and I debated over whether to splurge on dessert. Vietnamese Che is listed on the menu, an exotic pudding which our waiter said was made from mashed bean. "They add ice to it to keep it cool," he said, "so the effect is kind of like a slurpee - we don't have any tonight, it's not one of our big sellers."
Since our son was by that time crawling on the floor pretending to be a worm, we passed up the pastry and creme caramel and asked for our check - $17.80.