FOOD FOR FUN: NamNam Cafe’s Saigon Noodles

First and foremost I’d like to clue you in on something very important: I am absolutely, positively not a food critic. Aside from what I learned as a prep cook years ago and what my fabulous cook-of-a-fiance has taught me, I know next to nothing about culinary architecture. Having said that, I really, really love food, and I really appreciate Louisville’s effervescent independent restaurant scene which is why I have decided to embark on a weekly series of posts documenting a singular item from a particular menu from one of many local spots. We’re calling this series “Food For Fun” because, well, I don’t know. It’s a dumb name, but you’ll get over it.

Today I decided to venture to NamNam Cafe, a Vietnamese restaurant nesting in St. Matthews, but residing close enough to Frankfort Avenue assuring you that this ain’t another bullshit chain with a boring menu. NamNam comfortably resides in a low-traffic area off of Breckenridge Lane and Shelbyville Road next to DiOrio’s Pizza and across from Simply Thai, and remotely close to Trinity Highschool. Their menu is simple and concise featuring various healthy Vietnamese fare ranging from an assortment of rice paper rolls to brothy soups to hearty rice platters. As much as I’ve loved scouring their menu over the last couple of years, I’ve fallen in love with one entree in particular: The Saigon Noodles.

Before I give my thoughts on this killer dish, get a load of how awesome this divine concoction looks:


While I’m certainly no expert on Vietnamese cuisine (what’s traditional, what’s not / what’s authentic, what’s bullshit) I can easily say that this heaping pile of heaven deserves your undivided attention. Serving as one of Nam Nam’s signature dishes, this entree is based around a perfectly cooked pile of rice vermicelli noodles and curry paste stir fried to perfection with a slew of fresh ingredients including bean sprouts, green and yellow onions, celery, curry spices, and of course your choice of protein (chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or tofu) ranging from $10 to $12.50. You also have to choose your desired level of spicy-ness, as this dish is meant to have a bit of a bite to it.

I chose chicken, and out of their 3 levels of heat, I decided on level 3 (the hottest, and yes, it’s really hot) and then ordered a fiery Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin beer. Why? Because I need more hair on my chest. Or because I’m an idiot that hates my deteriorating digestive system due to these sorts of idiotic decisions.

As soon as I prodded my fork into this healthy portion of awesomeness I realized that every one of these ingredients holds together as a collective unit. There is not fall-apart, no greasy remains, and no “oh shit, I wish that sprout would have been a part of my last bite.” These ingredients firmly hold together like Venom, the evil alien symbiote holds on to its host Eddie Brock .

Adding to this fabulous experience was the impeccable service offered from our waiter who was friendly and knowledgeable with an attentive eye but never intrusive with a bunch of “how are y’all doing today? got any plans? man this place is neat, right?!” nonsense. Personally, I hate small talk and don’t really care to discuss my life or the weather with a perfect stranger. Maybe I’m an asshole, but whatever, this sort of horse shit banter always distracts me from the perfect lunch experience that I relentlessly desire, especially on my day off.

I went on to destroy my Saigon Noodles in less than ten minutes, despite making a mental note to savor this flavorful dish for a bit longer than that. Oh well, I left NamNam Cafe full and happy, and a tad bit tipsy and my mouth was delightfuly tingly making this lunch experience flawless, a lot like every other encounter I’ve had with this fantastic restaurant.

Seriously, if you haven’t yet been to Nam Nam Cafe, it’s time to treat yourself. Don’t cheat yourself.