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Behind the Review: Nam Phuong

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Photo by Becky Stein, video by some dude with my iPhone

In this week’s Behind the Review, I offer up an instructive video to help illustrate the tableside preparation of a dish I loved at Nam Phuong.

You can read the review here.

Atlanta doesn’t have as developed a Vietnamese food culture as it does Chinese, Korean or Japanese. Here, you can go to any number of regional Chinese restaurants and Korean spots that specialize in specific dishes. The better Japanese places now offer lengthy “izakaya” menus of small plates for sharing.

But the Vietnamese places in town have mostly been raucous, noisy, tile-floored restaurants that specialize in the beef noodle soup pho. There have been some exceptions. The late, lamented Bien Thuy offered strings of Christmas lights to soften the decor, personable service and a menu that encouraged exploring. Nam serves a super-curated Vietnamese menu in a swank Midtown bistro setting. Chateau de Saigon on Buford Highway offers a lengthy, interesting menu of Vietnamese and Cantonese specialties in a pretty, spit-polished setting.

But Nam Phuong has a kind of energy I’ve never seen before in this town. It’s a pretty restaurant, sure, and one that has all kinds of interesting dishes to explore. But more than anything, it’s a fun restaurant, and I wanted to get that across in the review.

It’s calling card is, without question, the bun hoi dishes that provide an ample setup for rice paper bundles that you roll yourself. I was a little worried that newcomers would be hesitant to try, so I devoted a good portion of the review to a lengthy description of the process.

But then I thought a video is worth a thousand words, so a I dragged a willing friend to Nam Phuong and had him tape me preparing a summer roll. It’s not much of a production effort, but at least I hope it encourages some of you to try this delightful dish.

19 comments Add your comment

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajcdinecritic, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Behind the Review: Nam Phuong http://bit.ly/dd6tm7 [...]

Kar

September 10th, 2010
12:08 pm

The big things that I find is to quickly dip the paper, don’t dunk and soak. Also, work quickly before the rice wrapper adheres strongly to the plate.

Sally

September 10th, 2010
12:17 pm

If you have to make the food yourself, it shouldn’t be so expensive.

John Kessler

September 10th, 2010
12:46 pm

Kar — Right, and make sure your plate is clean and dry.

[...] Administrator wrote an interesting post today Here’s a quick excerpt In this week’s Behind the Review, I offer up an instructive video to help illustrate the tableside preparation of a dish I loved at Nam Phuong. Atlanta doesn’t have as developed a Vietnamese food culture as it does Chinese, … [...]

jim

September 10th, 2010
1:50 pm

Bien Thuy- personable service? Not the Suzanne I remember.

SH

September 10th, 2010
2:29 pm

Sally – $20 dollars worth of fresh food and ingredients that will serve up to 2 people isn’t expensive unless your use to going to eat at McDonalds or some other establishment that has processed foods. Most cases $20 dollars at McDonalds will get you 2 value meals which contains who knows what.

I’m trying to understand your complaint about making your food yourself, but you don’t prep or cook the meat and the sides. They’ve cooked it and have it ready for you. It’s just like going to a non Taco Bell restaurant and ordering Fajitas. You have to put the ingredients yourself and wrap it and eat it.

Sally

September 10th, 2010
3:21 pm

When I pay my money for a meal, I shouldn’t have to assemble it. That’s not “fun” nor is it “an adventure.” It’s the kitchen’s job unless the cost is around $2.00.

I can feen my entire family – hubby, two teens, a tween, and the twins for less than $20.00 at home.

This JK fellow doesn’t understand the demographic I represent and it appears most of the readers here like nothing more than looking down their respective noses at folks like me. Well, I’m not going away and I won’t “be a good girl” and just shut up.

jw

September 10th, 2010
3:39 pm

Looks good JK. It seems it would be slightly easier to wet the rice paper if the bowl were just a bit bigger. Then you could make one quick pass rather than having to make an extra dip of the last 1/4.

Yes, Sally again!

September 10th, 2010
3:49 pm

I don’t know what demographic you represent, but it sounds like Krystals and Taco Bell are involved.

Hungry Gringo

September 10th, 2010
3:55 pm

That looks good enough to tempt me OTP.

Also Sally, JK goes to a lot of trouble to review a mix of restaurants that appeal to all tastes, locations, and budgets in the Metro area, so don’t harass him about “understanding the demographic you represent”. He seems like a nice fellow, so please no negativity.

Gene

September 10th, 2010
4:33 pm

Sally, gringo generally is a latin term for an American. So telling @Hungry Gringo to go back to Mexico where he is not from doesn’t make any sense.

But thanks for highlighting your xenophobic nature. I’ll be sure to keep my guard up if our paths ever meet but I’m not counting on it since it sounds like you don’t tend to patron uppity-to-rustic ethnic joints..

But if you truly have been keeping up with John’s writings in the paper and on his blog, you’d know that he covers everything from the new Spicy Chick Fil A sandwich to $1 falafels that you can get at Perimeter Mall. You can purchase many spicy chicken sandwiches and falafels that would feed your whole family comfortably under $20.

But what it really sounds like is that you want JK to ignore Atlanta’s multicultural audience as well as turn a blind eye to the vast income groups and eclectic appetites all over metro Atlanta. While he has teetered in your geographical location and area of food interest, it wouldn’t be responsible of him and to his cream-colored audience to cater to your sole interests.

Incidentally, I love the Rusty Nail up in the Roswell/Northridge area if you’re ok with Pub Food. It’s consistent and cheap.

The Big Maru

September 10th, 2010
4:37 pm

Agree with @Jim, went to Bien Thuy 3 or 4 times, always hoping the last time was an aberration, but the service never got any friendlier. Eventually gave up on it and don’t miss it at all.

Matt

September 12th, 2010
9:30 am

“Salster”-what an excellent troll you are.

Art

September 12th, 2010
4:51 pm

This is a food blog… a place to talk about all things food. It’s not a place to demean others or their opinions. Those of you, and you know who you are, who are new to the blog, would be wise to read a little more and write a little less. All of us long-time fans of John know that he covers the food scene from home-made to 5 stars and everything in-between. Sally are you reading?

Doo Doo Delicacy

September 13th, 2010
10:12 am

Just give me the Capn Ds 3 piece fish dinner. Much less trouble that this big mess.

Amy on Food

September 13th, 2010
12:29 pm

Dined at Nam Phuong on Saturday evening and enjoyed these rice paper rolls. I found the grape-leaf rolled beef particularly tasty. The Banh Xeo (Vietnamese yellow crepe) was also a stellar rendition. Thanks for the video! My review will be up “soon”!

John Kessler

September 13th, 2010
3:21 pm

Thanks, Art. Amy, looking forward to your post.

Michael

September 14th, 2010
10:03 am

Sally, I’m sort of confused what restaurants you think that he should be profiling on the blog if $20 is too much for two people. I’m curious where you think that you could feed your family of five to six people for $20 barring the store at QT for dougnuts and cheese sticks.