I dragged J with me--he has limited exposure to the cuisine (pho and banh mi don't count). Seeing as how I didn't want to scare him away, I stuck to three fairly safe (a.k.a. non-adventurous) dishes.
The first dish we ordered was a satay appetizer called bò xã lụi--which is basically grilled, ground beef that's seasoned with fresh herbs and lemongrass. With notes of onion and garlic, it's a savory start with some heat.
The next dish we ordered was something I ate all the time as a child, cơm sườn bò nướng, which is grilled short-ribs with rice.
These short-ribs are amazing! They've been marinated and are grilled--there's a hint of smoke and salt that makes them mouth-watering. They're tender and served on a bed of rice with pickled vegetables and a fish sauce that adds spice and a little (very slight, but complex) sour note.
The last dish we split is my all-time favorite: bún thịt nướng, which is basically the same as the short-rib dish, but instead of beef, you get pork, and instead of rice, you get rice noodles. Oh, and it's served in a bowl. The bowl is essential--it makes it easier to mix all of that tasty delicious-ness together and the rice noodles do a good job of making sure that the herbed fish sauce isn't too overwhelming for each bite.