Dave Truong knows his noodles. He can even say he was eating at Anthony Bourdain’s favorite Pho place in Vietnam before Bourdain discovered it. Truong grew up craving the beloved noodle dish, and of course he has it on his menu at Nam Nam Cafe (318 Wallace Ave., 891-8859), which he opened earlier this year. Both his mother, who is Vietnamese, and his Chinese father like to cook, so Truong is well-versed in the two food cultures. But when it came time to set up his own menu, which is an equal mix of quintessential Vietnamese dishes and Truong’s own creations, he wanted to keep it small. “I wanted to keep it simple and good, so what we have we do really well,” he says. The menu may be humble, but one can still have a hard time deciding what to order among the four noodle dishes, joined by other items that include Vietnamese sandwiches and tacos.
A must-have is the vermicelli bowl, Bun Thit Nuong. A delightful dish for summer weather, it is served cold with your choice of grilled meat or tofu on top of a bed of vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, lettuce, cucumbers, pickled carrots, herbs, fried shallots and peanuts, with a scallion oil drizzle; it’s served with nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce). The dish is a Disneyland of textures accented with layers of flavor and just a slightly spicy after-burn.
Another chef’s benefit of a pared-down menu, besides being able to focus on selected dishes, is that it allows for fresher, higher-quality ingredients. Truong is now sourcing his pork and beef tenderloin from Stone Cross Farms in Taylorsville and uses local organic produce. Some ingredients, however, are not so local and require a more exotic source. “The powder I use to make my Pho can only be bought in Vietnam — they won’t even mail it,” he says, “so once a year I take a trip over to stock up on that and other things I can’t get here in the States.”