87 Baxter St (between Bayard St and Walker St, Chinatown)
Fatty Kat Eats: Cha Gio, Pho Dac Biet (beef), Muc Chien Don (calamari)
As a pho-natic for Vietnamese food (see what I did there?!), it was clear that Nha Trang came out punching last night. I don't proclaim to be an expert on Vietnamese food, but I know what's up when it comes to pho (see the dictionary definition for "addict"). I've always been fiercely loyal to Pho Grand, but it was time to go out into the wild and recalibrate my standards. As any good Vietnamese restaurant should, Nha Trang brought out a wicked plate of pho condiments consisting of Thai basil, mint, bean sprouts and lime. Good broths won't need these ingredients to "make" the meal, but each condiment adds a different dimension to this steamy bowl of noodles.
Cha Gio (fried spring rolls) are a staple for any Vietnamese meal. These will mean fun times for your taste buds: lettuce, sweet fish sauce, fried rice paper, pork, mushrooms, and veggies. Nha Trang's rolls were good, but I prefer the crunchy and chewy rice paper and hearty filling in Pho Grand's version.
The "Hollow Vegetables," a poor name for sautéed morning glory (water spinach), is not pictured because we simply couldn't stop our chopsticks from taking over. You know...they have a mind of their own. I guess the Vietnamese way for sautéing water spinach uses a sweeter and saltier sauce than the Cantonese way (usually with garlic or fermented tofu). Either way, delicious! We also tried the Muc Chien Don , which is Vietnamese code for calamari. This stuff is really crispy and sits over a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce. The fish sauce that is drizzled over everything hints at sweetness. Love this!
The good news, no MSG. The oxtail broth tasted genuine and substantial. But more importantly, it made us feel warm and fuzzy inside. The Pho Dac Biet arrived dangerously hot with some juicy beef brisket, eye round and tendon in tow. The rice noodles were also perfectly cooked to the point of being soft yet not soggy.
The Pho Tom Tuoi is essentially the same thing with shrimp and veggies. The shrimp were clean and had a fresh crunch to them. I clearly liked my bowl of pho as I licked my bowl dry of anything resembling rice noodles, shrimp, broth or veggies.
I don't want to say this pho was better than Pho Grand's, so I'm just not going to say anything. I love them both! However, I can say that I will be spending a lot more time at Nha Trang, especially this winter.