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, 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.