Our dinner here last Wednesday night
stands out for me as being some of the best Vietnamese food I can remember having in Chicago. As turkob posted above, unlike at so many other Vietnamese places in town, at Nha Hang, the sweetness was balanced nicely by a lot of funk, which I'm not used to when it comes to Vietnamese. Being no expert, I cannot speak to authenticity but while eating this meal, the food made sense to me. It wasn't course after course of overly sweet, unbalanced dishes. Instead, tasty, fresh ingredients were combined in distinctive, complexly-flavored preparations that still allowed the individual components to shine.Nha Hang Viet Nam - 1032 W ArgyleRare Beef Salad
As others have posted above, the shrimp crackers here were great but they were just one highlight in a very nicely composed salad.Cold Duck Salad
More or less identical to the salad above but with cooked duck, which I didn't think worked as well as the rare (aka nearly raw) beef. Still, quite tasty.Wings
I liked these wings because the meat was moist and the sauce was funky and fairly fiery. There are 2 wing dishes on the menu that have identical descriptions, so I'm not sure if these are #29 or #30. In either case, they're described as "deep fried chicken wings marinated with fish sauce."Grilled Pork, other ingredients for Rice Paper Rolls
This was one of my favorites of the night. I thought the pork was cooked perfectly and with petite_gourmande's assistance, I was able to successfully negoatiate the rice paper wrappers, which I hadn't done in years. I think I made 3 of these.Pho
Again, I'm no expert and honestly, I've never been a huge fan of pho because I'm not crazy about the spice set. Still, this version was beefy and aromatic, and it was generously stocked with all sorts of goodies. I'm not sure from looking at the menu which Pho this was, because it incorporated ingredients from several of the versions described on the menu.Individual Portion of Pho pictured above
If I remember correctly, this bowl included beef, beef ball, tendon, tripe and noodles, among other ingredients.Bun Mam
I really loved this steamed rice noodle soup and thought it was fantastic, with a rich, spicy and funky (from fish sauce) depth of flavor that compelled. I remember there being shrimp, squid, pork belly and eggplant in this. I'm not sure I agree with laikom's statement above that it's the best soup in Chicago (I reserve that honor for the Beef Ball and Beef Tender Tom Yum at Aroy Thai) but thought this was a great bowl.Whole, Fried Red Snapper
Nicely crispy on the outside and moist within, this deep-fried snapper was served with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and fish sauce, the latter of which really brought home the funk.Turkob enjoys the red snapper 'carcass'Frog Legs
Pretty sure this is #183, which is described on the menu as "deep fried garlic butter frog legs with ginger, pepper and onions." They were crispy, tender, moist and delicious.Claypot of Catfish and Pork Belly, aka Ca & Thit Heo Kho To, #166
Red pepper, black pepper, green onions and again, the delightful funk of special fish sauce. I've had this dish at other Vietnamese places and liked this version better than any previous ones.Pickles for Claypot DishGrilled Pork with Vegetables over Noodles
Could this be #92, Bun Heo Nuong, which is described on the menu as "steamed rice noodle with grilled pork"? In any case, the pork was nicely grilled, tender and pleasantly sweet.Unknown Loaf
I'm not sure what this dish was and I didn't get to try it, so hopefully someone else can fill in the blanks.Ingredients for Hot Pot
Beef, shrimp, fish balls, etc.Ingredients for Hot Pot
Choy sum, bok choy, bean curd skin, etc.petite_gourmande, on the right, skillfully tends to the hot potHot Pot in motion
From reading the menu, it's unclear to me which hot pot this is because it incorporates ingredients from a few different descriptions. In any case, it was fantastic because the broth was so flavorful and the ingredients were exceptional, especially the beef, shrimp and fish balls, the latter of which were spectacular after they took on the broth while cooking. And the fermented tofu (in a small bowl shown at the bottom of the screen in the shot above this one) was a spectacular condiment that took this already fantastic hot pot to an even higher level.
There was also a durian-based smoothie-type dessert served that I forgot to snap a picture of. I'd be lying if I said I even remotely enjoyed it! Our group
14 very happy diners.
I tried to go back to Nha Hang 2 days later but got there too late (9:45 pm) and was told they were closing. But, after this first meal, I was (and am) excited to return. I have to thank laikom for putting this event together because it was great to explore so much of the menu. But also, I think part of the success of this meal is largely attributable to petite_gourmande's presence. She's from Vietnam and was able to communicate directly with the staff, which I think had no small bearing on the outcome of our meal. I hope I can remember enough from this meal, the details posted on this thread and future experiences at Nha Hang to return and put together successful orders in the future...even if she's not around.