Quan Nem Ninh Hoa
6450 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95823
Quan Nem Ninh Hoa is one of Stockton Boulevard's small army of Vietnamese restaurants. This neat, simple little place specializes in regional menu items ranging beyond the standard chicken pho-and-noodle-bowl selections of most area restaurants and to excellent effect. The restaurant specializes in food from Ninh Hoa, a district in Southern Vietnam's Khanh Hoa province, and it's a delight to see regional Vietnamese cooking transmuted to Sacramento's neighborhoods. And tasty, did I mention that?
We ordered what everyone orders here: the Dac Biet Nem Nuong or the make-your-own-spring-rolls with ground pork skewers. This dish is usually massive and usually delicious, and Quan Nem Ninh Hoa's presentation definitely didn't disappoint. A variety of tasty things are brought out in a large boat-shaped bowl, and one order was more then enough to happily satiate my mother and I.
You take the hard spring-roll wrappers, dip them in warm water, then spread them out on a plate to fill with the ingredients - this requires entirely more expertise then I possess, and I glanced with envy at the Vietnamese folks the next table over who appeared to have been executing the maneuver since birth. There's a variety of different ways to combine the sweet, slightly smoke pork skewers, crispy shrimp rolls (great for texture), vegetables and sweet, slightly gelatinous peanut-chili sauce. Interactive food never really gets old. The very lazy can of course order pre-assembled spring rolls, but really, now?
For dessert, there's a foil-wrapped nugget of pickled pork with a nice, astringent little hit of jalapeno: very nice, in my estimation.
Besides the spring roll special, the restaurant also offers banh beo - tiny rice cakes with shredded shrimp and onion ont op - and a distinctive seafood noodle soup with pork, poached shrimp, sauteed ground pork, a quail egg, rice noodles, calamari strips, and a small crab claw. There are also bun (noodle) bowls with various toppings if you're not feeling inclined to branch out.
There ain't no pho here. Be warned. Man up.