Nha Hang Viet Nam, in the former home of Anh Linn Seafood, is a little spot putting out an astonishing array of interesting and well-made dishes beyond the double standards of pho and banh mi. It's a huge menu to explore, but a few key items have emerged as solid winners: rare beef or squid salad with monstrous fresh-fried shrimp chips, fish sauce-marinated chicken wings, deep-fried garlic butter frog's legs, water spinach with fermented bean curd, and clay-pot pork and shrimp—a kho, the hallmark Vietnamese cooking technique in which the fish or meat is cooked down in a bitter caramel sauce. The pho is OK, nothing revelatory, so I'll recommend you fill your soup requirement with the bun mam, aka Vietnamese gumbo, a sour seafood soup, not unlike Thai tom yam, that originated in the Mekong Delta. It may not best the bowl you'd cool down with in the sweltering damp of Saigon's Ben Thanh market—that one incorporates pork—but it's a solid one, brimming with eggplant, shrimp, squid, and silky, thinly sliced fish, accompanied by a heaping side of bean sprouts, cilantro, mint, and jalapeños. Bun refers to the steamed rice vermicelli, which can be a bit mushy. But the key to this soup is the mam, as in mam ca loc (fermented fish paste) or mam tom (fermented shrimp paste), a murky purple slurry that on its own is one of the most odoriferous substances this side of a tannery fire. Added judiciously to soups or stir-fries, it provides the elusive element of deep rounded flavor that puts the mam in umami.
Payment Type: MasterCard, Visa, AmEx