Summer has officially hit Manchester, and what better way to celebrate post-exam season than at one of Manchester’s finest Vietnamese restaurants? Located in bustling Ancoats, NAM has recently launched an exciting new menu which looks set to thrill regulars and newcomers alike. Last week I was lucky enough to sample NAM’s latest offerings. Here’s the lowdown on some of the hottest – and hottest – dishes in the city right now.
NAM may give off the chic, sophisticated vibes of a young professional but it’s a family-thing at heart. Founder Nam Tran’s upbringing in Vietnam as part of a 9 strong family is core to the menu. The food – created by chef Gary Weir – puts a modern twist on traditional flavours. As a result, the dishes are hearty and often filling, but certainly not boring. Billed as a Vietnamese take on Tapas, there’s a great amount of choice on offer here. We visit on a Friday evening, and the restaurant is busy but relaxed. Downstairs is NAM’s ‘audiophile bar’, which features DJs on weekends. A mix of friends celebrating, nervous daters and after work diners give the place a chatty, chilled atmosphere. There’s no rush to move us along, meaning that we spend over two hours enjoying the restaurant and getting down to serious business: the new menu.
The beauty of NAM is in its small plates, not its small tables! Soon our table had disappeared, obscured by vibrant colours and exciting looking dishes. As a vegetarian, I saw my omnivore friend’s eyes light up at the sight of plates of enticing meat and seafish. She began with the Steamed Clams Saigom Style, which she’d never tried before. For a first timer, these went down a treat, swimming in butter and garlic, with hints of fiery chilli. This is the ideal starter, just enough to satiate your hunger while leaving room for more. I had the Pan-Fried Pak Choi, fried in bean curd. Whilst this dish was a pleasingly light starter, it reminded me of a puffin caught up in an oil spill: somehow drenched in both water and oil. I much preferred my second dish, the King Oyster Mushroom Bao Bun which was soft, crispy and spicy. In fact, my only complaint would be that I didn’t order another one! If you’re coming in a couple, I recommend ordering both the mushroom and Crispy Pork Belly bun to share.
NAM knows pork. The Xa Xiu Pork Ribs were soft and succulent, the meat falling off the bone. My friend described them as spicy and sweet, with a hint of salt: 10/10 in her eyes (& mouth!). As one of NAM’s large plates, it’s a generous portion and another must-try. The Bo Luc Lac ‘Shakin’ Beef’, so named for the vigorous shaking process it goes through in its creation, was another success. Tender, sticky and flavoursome in every mouthful, the beef is one of NAM’s finest dishes. Although it’s served with leafy watercress, you’re best off ordering another side to pair with this rather rich plate.
For my main, I tried the Crispy Fried Mushroom Salad. I was pleased to see the return of the delicious deep-fried mushrooms that made the Bao Bun such a treat. The salad typified everything so enjoyable about Vietnamese cuisine. It was crispily indulgent, whilst remaining fresh and cooling with the inclusion of soft vermicelli noodles hidden under the greens. Finally, my friend tried the King Prawn Lollypops which were less exciting than the meat dishes, being more of a fishcake texture than expected. The Roasted Sea Bream was unfortunately sold out when we visited – although hopefully a sign of its success! – but is advertised as big enough for two. With a menu like this, no-one’s leaving hungry!
NAM has a selection of deals on throughout the week, making it a student-friendly environment. On Mondays, there’s 2 for 1 on any Bao Bun, whilst Pho Thursdays see Pho and a Tiger Beer on sale for £10. There’s also a lunch deal Monday to Friday, 12pm – 4pm where a large plate and drink is priced at just £10. Perfect for students looking for somewhere new to try in the city!
NAM is open every day of the week, Sunday to Thursday from 12pm-11pm, Friday and Saturday from 12pm-12am, at 33 Blossom Street, Ancoats M4 6AJ.