Thursday, January 10, 2013

Restaurant Review: Fish Sauce (Nuoc Mam)

There is something happening to the Asian restaurant scene in Portland. It is a total hit and miss. Asian food used to be a great inexpensive option, but recently we noticed all our favorites old school restaurants are being outpaced by new modern takes on traditional Asian foods. With new and modern means expensive and no longer are we able to enjoy a meal for under $20, which used to be the case. We also notice that all the really good authentic Asian food has been pushed out further in the city as retail spaces have become more expensive. Young chefs are highlighting traditional foods on their menu, utilizing local fresh ingredients and charging high prices for what would typically be considered street food. We're happy to indulge in these new establishments, but find it difficult to declare we'll be back in the near future when a casual dinner for two is skyrocketing. Maybe it's the sign of the times that we simply haven't caught on to, that the norm now is to find common street food as a $7 appetizer. And when did banh mi sandwiches become so fancy and a part of so many of the new sandwich shops?

Even with these downfalls in mind we were anxious to try Fish Sauce, or Nuoc Mam, a new Vietnamese restaurant in NW Portland (in the space formerly occupied by St. Cupcake). What prompted us to put on our coats and shoes on was the presence of familiar items we haven't seen on other Vietnamese menus. While everything was executed beautifully and the ingredients of the highest quality, the high tab at the end of the meal and not feeling fully satiated made us think maybe we should just make these items ourselves. Either way Nuoc Mam was really good and we'll keep it in mind if we're ever craving the street rolls as good as my mom's and too lazy to make them ourselves.

Fish Sauce
Rain Soaked Patio
Fish Sauce Mural

Banh Beo. Typically we buy these at the grocery store and it was really nice to eat these straight from the steamer. Topped with yellow bean and deep fried pork belly, we could slurp these up all day.

Banh Beo Appetizer
Banh Beo

Bo Bia - a street rice paper roll done exactly as my mom's. Found on the streets of Saigon and typically half the size. We nostalgically chomped on these and enjoyed every bite.

Bo Bia

Deep fried free ranged game hen was deliciously brined and seasoned. The meat on this little guy was terrific and had us dreaming of recreating this at home.

5 Spice Rubbed Deep Fried Half Game Hen

Banh Canh or Udon noodle soup was exactly what we expected and hoped for - a flavorful oniony broth, plump juicy shrimp, thin slices of pork belly and crispy bits of fried shallots. We thoroughly enjoyed this bowl of soup, but again so expensive for something we could easily recreate at home.

A Big Bowl of Banh Canh
Banh Canh

All and all we enjoyed our meal at Fish Sauce, but with so many restaurants in this part of town we'd be hard pressed to return in the near future unless we are craving the exact dishes we tried this time around. But we do commend them for thinking outside the box a bit, executing the food really well and the great little restaurant space.

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