Nha Trang is a Vietnamese restaurant embedded deep inside a narrow strip mall on Valley Blvd., a stone’s throw away from my childhood home in San Gabriel. Nha Trang gets name from a seaside city in South Vietnam, but it’s really just known for 2 kinds of noodle soup: bun bo Hue (originates in central Vietnam) and bun rieu. The place itself is small and cramped. Parking can be difficult. Nonetheless, people are always willing to wait because their noodles are good.
I think I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. My favorite kind of restaurant is the kind that doesn’t insist on being a jack of all trades. It specializes. It masters a handful of dishes, instead of trying to cater to all palates. Nha Trang is one of these rare chimeric restaurants.
Upon entrance, you’re immediately greeted by a simple menu of 5 entrees, each
$5.95 $7.00 (small) or $7.50 (large).
- Bún bò Huế – spicy beef noodle soup
- Bún bò xào – stir-fried beef in lemongrass over rice vermicelli
- Cơm gà Hải Nam – Hainan chicken over rice
- Phở gà -chicken noodle soup
- Bún riêu – crab meat and pork in tomato soup with rice vermicelli
Now I don’t eat beef, so I can’t vouch for any of the beef dishes.
But the one dish that has never failed me is Nha Trang’s bun rieu. The bun rieu is served in a generous bowl, filled to the brim with piping hot bright red tomato soup (cooked with crab paste), hearty crab and pork meatballs, and freshly boiled rice vermicelli (a perfect chewy consistency), alongside a bunch of Vietnamese herbs and vegetables (diced cabbage, onions and mint leaves). Mind you, rice vermicelli is very fickle (a reason why my mom prefers using flat rice noodles when making noodle soups)–if overcooked, it has the consistency of mush, if undercooked, it’s practically rendered unchewable. The tomatoes infused a sweet aroma to this otherwise salty dish.
Perfect for cold weather. This is the perfect bowl of soup to clear up sinuses, any day.
311 E Valley Blvd Ste 103, San Gabriel, CA 91776