Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Highlight #106:It looked like it, but it wasn't it - Restaurant: Nam

Some days ago on my way to Trader Joe's, I saw the sign for Nam, now almost invisible from the road behind the new construction. I made a mental note then to revisit the place on a night when we feel like Vietnamese but are not up for driving to Buford Highway.

Then there was such a night and I remembered the note in the back of my mind. We were both in the mood for something a bit lighter that night and started things off with a green papaya salad. Savory from the fish sauce and a little sweet from a pinch of sugar, the crunchy papaya carried the refreshing flavors very well, especially when paired with the chewy shreds of beef jerky for textural contrast.

Our other appetizer was far less successful. Perhaps my expectation had been set too high in my hope to relive a wonderful experience at a Saigon curbside stall. Unlike that delicate lacy rice crepe from the land of Madame Butterfly, this incarnation, while looking somewhat like it, was constructed too thick and, as a result, emerged from the frying pan with a toothsome mochie like dense texture. It seemed that the thick shell had also prevented heat from properly penetrating to the innards and left the bean sprouts rather soggy.

The lemongrass beef brought things back to the level where the green papaya salad started the meal at. The primary impression here was the extreme tenderness of the beef. I often find that Asian stir fried dishes have a way of achieving that higher lever of softness in protein, the secret being a light coating of corn starch and high heat, which together seal in the moisture. The lemongrass flavor was very subtle here. What wasn't subtle were the flecks of dried onion bits. I am not sure if that's standard addition in this dish, but for some reason, it worked well in contrast to the softness of the beef.

For a place that is close in town, we enjoyed the meal. But if I really crave good Vietnamese, I am still driving up to Buford Highway.

931 Monroe Dr NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
(404) 541-9997

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