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Hintonburg/ Preston/ Chinatown
Foods from Chez Nam
2011 Jul 6
I went to Chez Nam today for my weekly lunch date with my dad. We arrived at 1:45, towards the end of their lunch service (2:30). I was disappointed that we were not offered the 'lunch special' menu, however it made for an excellent excuse to order off the full menu. Having never been before and faced with a very lengthy menu (100+ options) and wanting to order quickly, we went with the dinner for 2A. This included:
Hot and Sour Soup
Vietnamese Spring Rolls (4)
Beef Stired with Lemon Grass on Vermicelli
Chicken Sauteed with Curry Sauce
Tea & Fortune Cookies
Service was quick, attentive and informative. The hot and sour soup was okay although nothing special. It lacked some spice, being more sour on the sour side. It was chock full of veggies and diced chicken breast, served nice and hot (temp).
Spingrolls were above average for sure! A touch more seasoning (salt, fish sauce something) would have really brought the flavour out. Loved that it was served with carrots, lettuce leaves, fresh mint and basil. Filled with pork, crab, vermicelli and onions. I'd order these again.
The beef dish was delicious. The beef was fragrant with lemon grass, noodles nicely seasoned. Mix it all together, add some hot sauce and yum. The beef was cooked thinly sliced, and well trimmed so no fatty, chewy bits to worry about. A light dish.
The chicken stir fried with curry sauce was great. I would order this one again. Small portion, but had a stronger flavour that appeals to me. The rice that came with it was cooked nicely, and soaked up the sauce well. Still added hot sauce to this one.
The tea didn't some until the end of the meal which was a small disappointment as well. In asian restaurants I like to enjoy tea with my meal. Regardless, even when it did arrive I couldn't for the life of me figure out what kind of tea it was. I'm used to a lemon grass tea, or green tea but this tasted more of perhaps red rose stirred quickly with a stalk of lemon grass? I'd skip the tea next time.
Total cost was $29.99 plus tax. Extremely reasonable.
Now that I've sampled a few of their items and understand the menu better I look forward to a return trip to see what else I might like there.
Fresh, well cooked, sometimes subtle flavours, light. If you like Vietnamese food, or just looking to try it for the first time, this is a great place to go.
side note: they have lot fo fish tanks with beautiful cichlids, but if you're big on animals/fish ethics don't have a look at the many betta fish they have in tiny murky bowls- its a little disconcerting and unappetizing.
2009 Sep 26
I was expecting good things based on the reviews below, but I'm sad to say that I was quite disappointed by my experience tonight.
I started with the pineapple soup, and my husband had the hot and sour soup. I had initially ordered the vegetarian hot and sour soup (without egg), but was told that it was already made and had egg in it, so I should have the pineapple soup. Not an auspicious start. I found the soup to be incredibly salty and to have way too much celery in it, and I suspect that it may have been made with a powder broth mix (I'm just going on taste). I couldn't finish it which is rare for me. For my main, I had the vegetarian vermicelli. I found that the spring roll tasted of old oil, though the rest of the ingredients were fresh enough. I substituted the peanut sauce but wasn't particularly thrilled by it.
The service was good, but I got the feeling a couple of times that I was being told what I wanted to hear. Based on the food, neither my husband nor I are eager to go back any time soon.
2009 Aug 28
I had never heard of Chez Nam before a friend introduced me. The restaurant has been there for 15 years, sitting in the basement of an unassuming building on Booth.
The decor is what is it, kinda kitsch, although my friends described is as "cozy".
I don't recall the last time I was in a Vietnamese restaurant in Ottawa where the menu presented such a selection of items. It was very much like being in a Chinese restaurant (in fact many of the dishes sounded more Chinese to me) than what I would expect from a Vietnamese one. Then again, the ones I frequent mostly only offer pho or vermicelli.
Let me just say what a great time we had. The food was very good - very fresh, very healthy! It was plentiful … we ordered a LOT and ate it all! The prices were so reasonable given what we got. It was an all-around good time. We promised that the next time we go back, we'd bring our men and let them take part in the feast.
Enough chatter, this is what we ordered
7 Courses of Beef (best name ever!!!) - we just HAD to get it, plus one of my friends heard it was 'the' thing to get at Chez Nam. The meal comprised:
- beef congee (good but not the best I've had, my two friends really liked it though)
- beef salad (good, crispy - julienne celery, carrots, cucumbers and strips of beef)
- beef fondue (very good, lean and thinly sliced beef cooked in hot vinegar, you wrap them yourself in rice paper along with fresh leaves (basil and/or mint), julienne carrots and cucumber, lettuce leaves, and dunk into fish sauce)
- beef with lemongrass (good, a little beef 'log' - tasty but a bit dry for my taste)
- beef wrapped with Hawaiian leaf (good, also a little beef 'log' - tasty but I also found it a bit dry)
- beef satay (very good, beef skewed with some onion and green pepper)
- beef ball (this was our least favourite, like a bit dry meatball cut into quarters and served with shrimp chips)
The 7 Courses of Beef is pretty cool. Not each tasting was all that great, but as a whole, very impressive. And again the name - gotta love it!
(#G-9 from the 'special' menu) Wrap your own: Pork and Shrimp Paste
- this was very tasty. You assemble your own wrap (rice paper, vermicelli, sprouts, fresh leaves, julienne veggies) and dunk into your own bowl of fish sauce
- the shrimp paste (basically minced shrimp formed into little logs) was tasty
- the pork was grilled and also good
- both my friends really enjoyed this dish
(#40 from the regular menu) BBQ Pork
- this is a platter of the various parts of a vermicelli bowl (vermicelli, the meat, julienne veggies, sprouts, fresh leaves) which you are supposed to put together yourself -- we ate it the traditional way but also wrapped the contents in rice paper too
- the pork was SOOO tasty, this was by far the most delicious of the items we ordered
A friend also ordered a small bowl of crab and corn soup. It was very tasty.
All in all, we had an incredible feast. The atmosphere in the restaurant is very relaxed. The service was good and helpful -- the server actually told us how dishes/platters were supposed to be eaten.
Making your own rice paper wraps is not an easy task - very messy indeed. It was just so fun. At times, I resorted to just eating all the contents of my wrap (which had spilled out) with my fingers and the restaurant has the kind of vibe that it didn't matter that some of my table manners were abandoned.
Chez Nam is a must-try! We'll be going back for sure!
2009 Aug 8
I've been going to Chez Nam for lunch once a week for the past three years and have never been disappointed. This place is ideal when one is looking for a full and quick lunch (Soup, spring roll and main course) for under 10$. Both their lunch soups are nothing short of exceptional.
Great value for the price!
2009 Jan 26
As a vegetarian, I really like Chez Nam. I can't comment on their meat and seafood options, but they have a decent meat-free menu. My favourites:
Vegetarian salad: grated veggies in a sweet yet spicy-hot dressing
Tofu festival platter: three types of tofu served on a platter with assorted veggies and rice wrappers. Kind of like a do-it-yourself spring roll -- but very hands on and lots of fun.
Imitation sweet and sour ribs: deep-fried tofu, onions and peppers marinated in a sticky sweet and sour sauce. Yum!
While going down into the basement seems a little weird as you enter, it is rather cozy down there. The service is helpful and prompt. I love how the owner sometimes comes out to check on us.
The beer selection is a little meager, but the tea is good, and the Vietnamese-style coffees are good (yet STRONG!).
I definitely recommend Chez Nam if you're a veggie looking for some decently priced yet quality Vietnamese food.
2008 Nov 23
Popped in here with the family for a quick Saturday night supper. It was unexpectedly warm for a basement restaurant and had a nice large seating area. Something about the decor, menus, and the plethora of fish tanks made the experience somewhat surreal -- this could be the restaurant that time forgot! :-)
* Spring Rolls (4)
* Goi Cuon - Shrimp Salad Rolls (2)
* Butterfly Shrimp
* Vermicelli bowl - grilled beef
* Pho Tai
The spring rolls and the goi cuon tasted okay. Unlike most places, they serve the spring rolls with enough lettuce leaves to wrap each one so you can pick it up while hot. Bonus points for this!
The butterfly shrimp were quite decent. Our kids don't like meat but they do like shrimp, so we order this mostly for them.
The vermicelli bowl was slightly larger than normal. We asked for no bean sprouts and it looked like they made up the difference with well seasoned (nước chấm) noodles (great!). The beef, although quite tasty, didn't have any grill marks or charred flavour.
The soup was good but didn't quite have the depth of flavour found in pho-only restaurants.
Overall a neutral to positive experience. Not exceptional Vietnamese food but it's a place with real character and lots of tables. They were attentive with water refills. Value for the money was quite good ($38 + tip).
2008 Jul 12
this is my all time favourite restaurant when it comes vietnamese food.
we normally order its curry chicken, sweet&sour soup with shrimps and pineapple, and beef saute with green onions.
the service is casual but efficient and friendly.
they have a good vegetarian selection on the back of the menu. I had the imitation meat platter and it was very tasty. it even came with sprouts and really fresh green lettuce. and the sprouts i did not expect from a vietnamese restaurant. nice touch!
i only go to this restaurant when i want vietnamese food. i have never been disappointed so far.
2008 Jul 2
This is one of my favourite Vietnamese eating spots.
I was introduced to this restaurant by a vienamese co-worker about 2 years ago He recomended the fried noodle dish. #42 on the menu.
I never fail to order it every time I go.
2008 Feb 9
I prefer this place to the New Mee Fung. The wraps are great and so are the lunch specials. We used to eat there every weekend after my kids swimming lessons at Carleton U. The prices are a bit higher than the average though (maybe 20%). That doesn't apply to the lunch specials, which are a good deal. Try the fish lunch special; I really liked it.
2007 Oct 4
So, I wasn't expecting much from this basement restaurant on Booth Street. Actually, I was supposed to be going to New Mee Fung, except that it was undergoing reno's. This place is pretty unassuming, and you notice it with the ad hoc decor when you enter inside (bamboo curtain, various fake flowers and plants).
I order V-1, beef and pork vermicelli. When it arrived, there was a tiny bowl of fish sauce accompanying it. Given that I almost drink fish sauce, I immediately asked the server for more. And he told me there was plenty in the bowl - he even took a fork to pull aside some of the noodles, and tipped my bowl forward to show me that there was plenty in the bowl. The noodles were nicely thin, and for once, not stuck together. The pork and beef were fatty, and nicely grilled. The fish sauce was flavourful, and for ONCE, not watered down.
It usually takes a lot to fill me up, but I was stuffed from this $8.95 meal. Good value for the price!
My friend ordered a vermicelli dish off of the vegetarian menu, and found that the tofu they used was especially flavourful. Quite a contrast from the usual just fried tofu that is common in Viet restaurant vermicelli's.
Fans of Chez Nam
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