Sometimes I shudder to think about the days when all I subsisted on was Lean Cuisine frozen meals. The nuclear cheese, the plastic film that would sometimes cling to the gummy chicken, the limp vegetables — it would take me years to fully appreciate and fall in love with multi-cultural, wholesome cuisine. I’ve been eating clean since 2004, and have replaced the pre-packaged, processed foodstuffs with a culinary journey across skies and seas.
This weekend I had the pleasure of dining at NAM: Food of Vietnam in New York’s Tribeca district. From the minimalist decor (framed photos in sepia of families in Vietnam are the primary interior focal points) to the ambient lighting and refined linens, you can tell the spare, elegant decor was merely a white dish to which delectable eats could be showcased.
We were seven and starved. Since many of us are good friends plate-sharing was naturally required. I sampled on the beef spareribs, and feasted on the herbed salad (the fresh mint and cilantro were a welcomed surprise from the requisite mixed greens). I found the crispy lemongrass tofu to be tender on the inside and caramelized to perfection on the outside. I sometimes loathe when chefs try to mask tofu as chicken or drown the dish in heavy sauces rather than allow simple flavors to take stage.
And while the girls feasted on noodles, duck, and fish, I settled on the rice noodles and grilled chicken nestled in broth and salad. And people, I NEARLY CRIED. The food was THAT GOOD. I couldn’t stop eating.
What I loved most about NAM were the subtle texture and flavor plays on dishes that were simple yet remarkable. I tend to believe that the best food is made from the simplest and most flavorful ingredients. Although I consumed nearly everything in sight, I didn’t experience that stuffed, lather-this-woman-in-Crisco-to-get-out-of-the-door, feeling.
The only minor disappointment was the dessert. I sampled a chocolate mousse flavored with Grand Marnier, and the mediocre chocolate left me a little cold. However, the host of appetizers and succulent dishes far out-shined a poor bite of mousse.
So if you’re in New York and in the market for fine Vietnamese cuisine, I highly recommend NAM.