First a very short local history lesson. The town of Carol Stream is named after an actual woman, who is the daughter of the original housing developer of this town, Jay Stream. It's beats the hell out of Durable Construction Company-Ville, which was the name of his development firm. With that said, a town without a true downtown is a bit suspect in my book. There is no downtown Carol Stream, just housing and strip malls and a few industrial parks. I always wondered as a kid what the phrase bedroom community meant. This is it.
Nhã Ý is in a strip mall. Big surprise. Wow I really liked this place a lot. A bit bright inside, but with really interesting aqua blue, highly varnished, Asian nature scene paintings on the wall which would be right at home air brushed on the side of an 70's Vietnamese conversion van in place of the viking or warlock clad in leather and metal. You get the idea.
It was the wife and me, a family of hippies and a half dozen Vietnamese folks. We started with a safe chicken on sticks. They seemed to be marinated in a sort of yellow curry and maybe coconut milk and served with an exceptional version of the old warhorse peanut dipping sauce.
I went with the traditional pho, with beef, but it's also availabe with meatballs, tendon or flank. Awesome broth with layers of flavor, noodles thrown in at the last minute as they still had the right texture, thin white onion and diced green onion and on the side the traditional accompaniments of sprouts, lime, chilies. In addition there were pieces of a special Vietnamese mint along with an odd variety of basil. Both very distinct and when I asked the proprieter he said the mint was difficult to get and quite expensive per pound and the basil they receive either from Florida or Texas. The mint was long and thin and left a serious tingle on your tongue. The thin slices of beef were already added and still tender but I'm sure they would serve raw on the side if requested.
The wife went with steamed rice paper rolled with ground pork, some sort of dark mushroom, covered with pork cake (aka rolled pork lunchmeat/sausage) and topped with crispy fried onion rings. This was all served on a bed of sprouts mixed with chopped lettuce and basil. Served on the side was a thin and bright sweet and sour sauce with shaved carrots and spiked with fish sauce. This was a dish unlike anything we've had before as far as the textures go. The steamed rice paper/noodles were gummy and squishy, but in the best way possible. The more Asain food I try, the more I see the element of texture popping up. Served on the side of both the rice paper and the chicken were small but adequate piles of addictive pickled radishes and carrots. A few were even cut in a fancy flat flower pattern. Say that three times.
A very extensive menu which gets away with something not seen often in the suburbs, that of stricly serving Vietnamese food without concessions to a group of Chinese or Thai dishes. Some really intersting appetizers including duck salad and roast quail, Entrees all over the place with fish and organ meats for the offal lovers and a few odd sounding desserts including Blackeyed Peas and sweet rice in coconut milk along with an Avocado shake and a salty lime drink. Extremely nice owner who is willing to talk with authority about the food he serves.
632 E. St Charles Road
Carol Stream, Il
P.S. We also saw, but have not tried yet, a Middle Easter restaurant called Shish Cafe right around the corner on Schmale Rd just south of North Ave.
1461 Glen Hill Dr
Phone: (630) 668-6663