Nom Nom goes off the beaten path

Traditional dishes accentuated by exclusive selections




Why: Nom Nom recently opened up in downtown Vancouver right next door to the City Center 12 movie theater. The menu reflects Vietnamese and Thai heritage with expected and exclusive options.

What I tried: My dining companion and I tried the Kaopoon Nam Gai — a Laotian red curry chicken noodle soup served with shredded cabbage, carrots, cilantro, mint and bean sprouts — and the Nem Kao, which is marinated crispy rice mixed with minced chicken, coconut shreds, peanuts, lime and fish sauce and served with lettuce, cilantro and mint. Both of these dishes have become the most popular menu items since the restaurant opened. We also sampled the green papaya salad, which combines shredded green papaya pressed with carrots in tamarind sauce topped with peanuts. We opted for the accompanying platter of pork rinds, Lao jerky, noodles and sticky rice. Other than water to drink, we tried the Cosmopolitans, which were just $4. For dessert, we had the mango and sticky rice.

The curry dish was my favorite. Tender shredded chicken was generously added to the soup base. The flavor was both sweet and slightly spicy, and it had a hearty presence. The crunch and earthy flavor of the fresh bean sprouts gave the soup more dimension than I expected. I would definitely be inclined to order this soup again. The Nem Kao was equally impressive. This dish is served lettuce wrap style with a pile of both romaine and iceberg lettuce for wrapping the rice and chicken mixture. The combination of ingredients was a one-of-a-kind flavor that saturated every element. The texture was crumbled and sticky, and it was easy to wrap in the lettuce.

I found the papaya salad to be too hot for my palate, and I was not fond of the way it smelled, which for me, is part of the enjoyment of eating a dish. However, the accompanying platter I found very agreeable — especially the jerky, which was sprinkled with sesame seeds. Each piece was a meaty thickness and tasted of garlicky sweet and salty teriyaki.

The dessert was delicious but the mango was not quite ripe, which somewhat detracted from it.

The cosmos paired nicely with the flavorful presence of our meal.

Menu highlights beyond what I tried: The Nom Nom wings are fried and caramelized in a sweet garlic sauce. Tofu fries are fried crispy and served with a peanut sauce. The signature Nom Nom bowl is comprised of vermicelli noodles with lettuce, bean sprouts, carrots, cilantro and fish sauce. Diners have the option of adding tofu, lemongrass chicken, grilled pork or grilled beef to the bowl. Pho is available in chicken, vegetable and a combination of beef. The won ton soup sounded delicious, with pork and shrimp wrapped in won ton skin and served with BBQ pork, spinach and shrimp. Green, red and yellow curries are on the menu. Diners may choose from tofu, chicken, vegetables, beef, shrimp or seafood to add to noodle, curry, fried rice and wok dishes in addition to the level of spicy heat desired.

Atmosphere: The restaurant is rather expansive, which is accentuated by the large windows that wrap around the front and sides of the space. The decor has a comfortable, upscale, modern appeal. Tables and chairs are set atop a sealed concrete floor, and lighting consists of bright pendant fixtures throughout. Orange and gray have been tastefully used to accent the warm wood tones of the furniture. There is a large screen TV for entertainment at the bar, which is just inside the door from the outdoor patio seating, where orange canvas umbrellas shade tables.

Other observations: Nom Nom appears to be off to a good start. The atmosphere is comfortable and the food is tasty. The waitstaff is friendly and knowledgable about menu items but could be more attentive.

Cost: Appetizers cost $5 to $11. Specialty dishes and Pho are $6 to $11. Soups and salads are $9 to $17. Noodle, wok, curry and fried rice dishes are $8.50 to $13.50 depending on your choice of meat, vegetables or tofu. Sides cost $2 to $5. Specialty dishes at dinner top out at $19. Noodle, wok, curry and fried rice dishes at dinner range from $10.50 to $15.50.