Quan Nem Ninh Hoa Round Two
6450 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95823
Quan Nem Ninh Hoa is a lovely Vietnamese place on Stockton Boulevard, Sacramento's resident Cavalcade of Asian Restaurants. Living in New Orleans has made me appreciate Sacramento's culinary diversity a lot more then I did before: we have great local cuisine in NOLA, but we definitely don't have the incredible variety of international foods here that we do in California. Quan Nem Ninh Hoa is a good example of this diversity - it specializes in the food of a specific region of south-central Vietnam, Ninh Hoa. The food in this part of Vietnam is spicier then that of the North (which is where pho comes from) and relies more upon side-dishes. Translation: Don't expect pho at Quan Nem Ninh Hoa. Americans do tend to fall into the trap of assuming that the "standard menu" at a given ethnic restaurant, be it Indian, Chinese, or Vietnamese, is a good representative oft he cuisine of an entire country. Far from it: pretty much everywhere possesses super-distinct and interesting regional cuisines that just don't make it to American menus, primarily because a lot of these "weirder" dishes don't sell. (I am perenially amazed that some of India's more approachable regional cuisines haven't taken off in the USA, but that's another story).
The restaurant is famous for their house special pork spring rolls, which I've reviewed before. This time, I decided to try one of the regional seafood soups and a Vietnamese style salad.
This is the Hu Tieu Nam Vang, a soup composed of small bits of pork, ground pork, quail egg, rice noodles, pork liver, poached shrimp, squid, and God knows what else. The surprisingly delicate seafood broth is given an interesting tang with the addition of all those extra ingredients: it's fun to eat. I was, to be honest, expecting something a bit more "difficult" tasting, but tossing in a whole bunch of chili paste made me a happy camper. Pork blood, however? Acquired taste. God speed.
This salad is a standard Vietnamese preparation: shredded vegetables, chicken, shrimp, and a lot of fresh herbs. But what a gorgeous preparation! Quan Nem Ninh Hoa really excels both in attractive food presentation and in maintaining a super-clean and peaceful dining area: that's evident here. A very tasty representation of a favorite. Also dig that gigantic rice cracker.
Quan Nem Ninh Hoa remains one my favorite places in the region for clear-tasting, attractive Vietnamese food. Give it a try soon: you won't regret it. Look beyond the pho, my children, look beyond the pho.