Temaki Sushi has transformed into Nha Trang Vietnamese
Nha Trang Vietnamese
1508 W. Magnolia Ave.
Fort Worth 76104
After Temaki Sushi, a scant but consistent take on Japanese food, opened in 2011, owner Alex Huang’s restaurant became a favorite sushi staple on Magnolia Avenue. Then, Huang decided to go back to his roots and changed the format to his native Vietnamese, incorporating family recipes.
The transition was a quick turnaround. After ending his run with Temaki Sushi at the end of January and rebranding as Nha Trang Vietnamese, Huang was ready for a soft opening by mid-February.
Nha Trang is heading in an unexpected direction. With pho noodles now considered mainstream and the centerpiece of nearly all local Vietnamese menus, Huang is focusing on introducing a ready audience to other traditional fare. Vietnamese cuisine is known for its profusion of fresh vegetables and peanuts. Most dishes are very lightly sauced (apart from curries of course), and a clean and adjustable heat is achieved by either red chilies, red chili paste or jalapeno.
“We didn’t want to focus on pho noodles … which people are already familiar with. We don’t serve pho at Nha Trang,” said Huang. Instead he is pushing the envelope and introducing diners to authentic Vietnamese dishes. “Nha Trang is a central coastal city, north of Saigon, where I was born. The recipes are my mother’s. I think people are ready to embrace new ideas and flavors. True Vietnamese has simple but balanced flavors. I wanted to introduce people to Vietnamese with higher quality meats and vegetables,” he said.
The menu items are not anglicized, but for those who are not fluent Vietnamese speakers, there is no reason to fumble over pronunciation with the handy alpha-numeric layout. For starters the banh khot ($9), or A10, was delicious. Seven tender mini-rice cakes are filled with creamy mung beans and topped with generous cold shrimp. The dish is topped with crushed peanuts and green onion and served with a sweet and spicy sauce. The sauce is a stock base with a touch of chopped jalapeno and sugar. The appetizer was unique and a real crowd pleaser.
The com chien tau hu ($10) or R2 tofu fried rice is simple and satisfying with cubes of tofu, carrot and soybeans mixed in. It is a filling but not a gargantuan portion.
I really enjoyed the straight-forward bun bo nuong cha gio ($11) or N5 grilled sirloin beef over vermicelli rice noodles. The dish is served with the same jalapeno sauce to flavor the noodles and julienne carrot and green bell pepper to toss in. The sirloin was well-seasoned and tender. It an ample portion of protein for lunch, dusted with ground peanuts. Two crispy fried egg rolls were a tasty addition.
Hu tieu ($11) or N1 is a noodle bowl that will be familiar to pho soup lovers. These are potato noodles served in a broth with chives, bean sprouts and celery. We chose the blackened sliced pork, but the dish also comes with either chicken or shrimp. An interesting element of this dish was the mound of charred onion strings with imparted an intense smoky flavor.
The interior of Nha Trang has not changed much. Booth seating lines both walls with scattered table tops in between. Modern chairs have the appearance of origami but are quite comfortable. Walls are tinted the perfect green tea tone.
Vietnam has an interesting mixture of cultures within its borders owing to its long relationship with France dating from the 1700’s and then later as a French colony. The cuisine shows this flavor. That is why you find crepes on the menu along with pâté spread on classic bahn mi sandwiches, and also why macarons are a staple dessert in Vietnamese cuisine. Temaki Sushi served some of the first fresh macarons in town, before they began popping up everywhere, and luckily these made the cut for Nha Trang’s authentic menu.
The French macarons ($7) are filled with fresh fruit rather than sweet creams and the flavor changes daily. On the day we visited slices of ripe kiwi and sweetened mascarpone cheese filled them.
Nha Trang is an affordable escape on the Eighth Avenue end of Magnolia.