Autumn allegedly arrived last week and you know what that means: Soon your body will start gathering fat to protect you from the winter cold and feed you during your hibernation at Manifest and Flex. So, this week, let’s hit a healthy choice, Nam Phuong in Chamblee (4051 Buford Highway). The Vietnamese cuisine here, like the original on Jimmy Carter Boulevard, is widely regarded as unsurpassable in our city.
Why do I call the food here healthy? Vietnamese food employs lots of fresh herbs, very little fat, vegetables, rice noodles, and lean meats. Then again, Nam Phuong allows you to compensate by eating gigantic portions. It offers a remarkable deal of huge dinners for two to five people that include enough dishes to cover your entire table for barely $15 per person. I opted out but my two friends jumped on the deal. Their meal included macrophallic summer rolls, that looked like they were wrapped in glossily lubricated rice-paper condoms; a huge bowl of mainly sweet but also sour soup with shrimp and vegetables; a plate of rib nubs; and a giant serving of salty green beans with shreds of sautéed beef. As if this were not enough, they added an enormous papaya salad and a slice of paper-thin steak submerged in broth.
I bugged the kitchen to make my favorite, which I’ve never actually found on any menu besides the one at the departed Chateau de Saigon. After several visits to the table by the manager, she said the chef agreed to make it. It’s simple, actually. It’s rice cooked in a pot until it’s crunchy and then topped with a meat of your choice. I wanted the classic pork cooked until caramelized in a hot pot with fish sauce. It was, no joke, the best I’ve ever had. Please order it. (I did report a few months ago that Anh’s Kitchen in Midtown made me a version with healthier chicken.) The price was $10–$15 for the meat and $5 for the rice. Like everything else here, it was a huge portion.
Nothing failed to please, except maybe some meh eggrolls. The menu, which is well-translated, is absolutely gigantic, and includes the faddish pho which you can wait to eat in late winter to start melting the fat away.
ELSEWHERE: Friends and I now and then go to Café Lapin (2341 Peachtree Road) in Buckhead. It’s a classic place to mingle with Ladies Who Lunch on tuna and chicken salad. No matter how old you are, you’ll still likely be the youngest person there. The lunch menu is all sandwiches, soups, salads, and quiche, and it’s all pretty good. I love the grilled pimento cheese with bacon and tomato. I order it with the caprese salad. The restaurant specializes in cakes and the coconut is regarded by many as the best in town. Café Lapin is also open for dinner, but the food is equally prosaic but pricey.
In my last column, I mentioned The Baker Dude Bakery Café in the Beacon Atlanta (1039 Grant Street). You must go. I’ve devoured their cupcakes and specials like lasagna and a pear quiche. If you go Friday evening, you can catch drag performer Stiletto in a cabaret performance with pianist Robert Reeb. Call ahead to confirm. I love the place.