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Nhu Hoa Cafe - Great salad/lousy shrimps

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Nhu Hoa Cafe - Great salad/lousy shrimps

Vital Information | Mar 28, 2003 11:26 AM

There has been a bit of Argyle talk of late. I happened to need to be in the area last night, and had dinner at Nhu Hoa Cafe.

We used to live a block away from Argyle, so you'd think I know the street inside and out. No. We tended to restrict ourselves to a small group of places that we liked for different things. Pho 777 for pho, the eggy-meatball place for broken rice and beef stew with egg noodles and rice noodles, or Sun Wah for Chinese BBQ and Chinese cole slaw. While we would occasionally order something besides pho at Pho 777--a very good greens with garlic, pork chops impossible to eat with fork and spoon--when we wanted Vietamaese food that was not pho, we generally ended up at Nhu Hoa. Nhu Hoa had the additional advantage of a bunch of Laotian dishes too.

What we like at Nhu Hoa are three catagories of dishes. First, we like the various "bun" noodle bowls. These are very thin rice noodles served cold with a mix of pickled carrots/daikon, cucumbers, herbs and then your choice of topping. I am very partial to the curry beef-egg roll version. The second type of dish we like at Nhu Hoa are the items similiar to the above, but deconstructed. Here, you get some for of protein, the noodles and a platter of lettuce, herbs, etc. You then stuff all these things in rice papper, roll, dip and attempt to eat before it all falls apart. Finally, the dish we nearly cannot live without at Nhu Hoa is the papaya salad with beef jerky from the Laotian side of the menu, always ordered "very hot."

Last night, we ordered one from each catagory. Our salad came first. Our waitress, one of the owners, wanted to eat our salad with us. I cannot remember being given a dish where the server so visibly salvitated over it herself. She especially commended us for asking for it very hot--talking about buttering up VI! She explained that the used three types of peppers including Filipino peppers to get it hot, and she agreed with me that this dish belongs hot. The shreds of beef jerky add a lot to the salad, chew and little beef flavor bombs, a fanstasic dish.

Not so fantastic, the grilled shrimps on a stick served with the rice paper and accessories. Problem one, the skewered shrimps were fried not grilled. Problem two, the shrimps were just not that good, very mushy. All those extra elements, the pickled daikon, the herbs, mint, basil, cilantro; the dipping sauce, could not cover up the yucky shrimps. We wondered if they fried the shrimps in an attempt mask flavors that grilling would expose.

Do not let this poor shrimp disuade you, however from Nhu Hoa. Get the papaya beef jerky salad, the cold noodles or even the fancier dishes whose photo's are plastered all over the place. You can even get pho.

Nhu Hoa Cafe
1020 W. Argyle
Chicago, IL
773-878-0618
Closed Monday

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