Nhut Quang

UPDATED 6/11/2009

We have received the tragic word that Nhut Quang has closed in its current location.  We had an update in the works for this review, as one Stumptown Vegan really found herself falling for this charmingly nondescript, delicious restaurant during the past year.  I am sorry this update did not make it in time.  In particular, this reviewer has this to say about #19, RIP, the BBQ Roasted Gluten:

The tender and chewy gluten featured in this Vietnamese dish is unlike any I’ve encountered elsewhere. Mingling with green onions, a unique BBQ sauce, and served with brown rice, it was instantly my new favorite dish in town.  The owner is a passionate, friendly vegan Buddhist who is a treat to talk to, and support.  The vegan eggrolls, Vietnamese crepe, Roasted Gluten bun and classic pho are all recommended as well.

The Stumptown Vegans will notifiy you if we hear about the owner opening a new restaurant.

 

Time Visited: 2

Often referred to as Van Hanh’s NE sibling, 1. because I am sure I’d slaughter the name if I said it out loud and, 2. because the menu is similar.

If Nhut Quang was being judged only on atmosphere they would be in trouble. This little restaurant is connected to a gas station on NE Fremont and NE 82nd, between Honey Suckles and Pussycats, if you know your East side gentlemen’s clubs. The first time we visited we missed it because it didn’t seem like a likely location. Even once we entered it still didn’t seem like a likely location. Being the only people it felt very lonely. The walls are each different shades of green and blue without any other decoration besides a lone clock – ticking. If there was any other noise than the kitchen, like some music, the clock wouldn’t be a problem. The tick-tok of each movement reminded us of our mortality. After the second visit we decided it’s too uncomfortable to go back, but we would order our food to-go.

We’ve ordered just a sampling of the vast menu – Bird’s Nest Noodles, Pho, summer rolls, steamed bun, potato rolls, tofu dishes, and a combo. The sign boasts all vegan so we went for it all. All the food reminded me of the SE 82nd Asian market, Fubonn, from the mass amount of fake meats to the noodles and the sauces. It didn’t seem fresh or unique, but straight from a plastic wrapped package or bottle.

The Pho had a gritty broth as if a vegetable bullion has just been dissolved in boiling water. Then a round package of noodles was placed in, followed by some vegetables, fake meat, served with some fresh herbs. A similar recipe followed the other dishes. This isn’t to say the dishes weren’t good, they just weren’t fresh like the dishes at Pho Green Papaya or Bay Leaf ‘s quality.

The dishes were good in a cheap Vietnamese restaurant way, which is perfect because that’s what Nhut Quang is – Vietnamese and cheap. The steamed buns were good, as were the salad rolls. Unfortunately, there’s not much to say about them. It’s the kind of food I used to eat when I’d drop by a Vietnamese friend’s house unexpected and she’d cook up something quickly.

This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t go back, it’s just located father from my house than I’d prefer to go for Vietnamese food. I could list off other places I’d recommend, but if Nhut Quang was in my neighborhood, I’d visit more often. If Nhut Quang is in your neighborhood, or you’re a big fan of Fubbon or Van Hanh – check this place out and help me fill in the gaps as to why I don’t have much to say about the food.

Pho:
NQ - Pho

Bird’s Nest:
NQ - Crunchy Noodle

Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce:
NQ - Salad Rolls

Steamed Potato Bun:
NQ - Steamed Bun

Potato Rolls:

Fried Tofu:

Broccoli Combo:

Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Location: 3438 NE 82nd Ave. Portland, OR 97213
Hours: Mon-Tue and Thus-Sat 9am-9pm, Closed Wednesday, Sun 10am-9pm

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30 responses to “Nhut Quang

  1. judging from your review, i think i’ll stick with van hanh.

    at least there i am consistently quasi-amused by the atmosphere.
    like the table where you face the corner and stare at some teeni-bopper asian film/music star.

    and in the summer you can sit out on the porch and watch kids on bmx’s ring the door bell (and then run away) of the DIY brothel across the street.

    seriously though, even if van hanh isn’t exactly healthy…and it’s kind of strange. i’ve always enjoyed my food there.

  2. Hi Webly! (and Jess!)
    As you guys know, I read your reviews all the time, and though I usually don’t comment, I’m almost always right there with you in your descriptions and ratings. But I have to comment on this entry because I just went to Nhut Quang (pronounced “nyoot oo as in “book” qwong” for my birthday lunch no less (because I love vietnamese food a whole lot), and it really was just so good that I have to share my experience of this place.

    We ordered the bbq bun, the mung bean dumplings, spicy gluten ribs, and our very favorite, the vietnamese crepes. It was a generous amount of food, and we took some home with us. The crepes, made with little slices of fake ham and yummy spices baked write into the batter, came with mung bean sprouts, lettuce, and lots of mint. The ribs, thin sliced gluten, were spicy and sweet. Both buns were delicious and reminded me of my favorite place to get buns back in NYC. Come to think of it, the ambience (or lacking thereof) reminds me of this favorite place, too.

    When we went, there were two tables, both with vietnamese couples at them, and a few other people coming in ordering food to go. One of the owners (its owned by a family) came up to us right away, and he was super friendly and helpful. We talked with him about veganism (he’s been vegan for 3 years, and he reminded me that it was my veganversary today!) and the area the restaurant is in (not a lot of vegans there — shocker!) I can imagine its a difficult endeavor to open up a vegan restaurant all the way out there, but once I get past the idea that it’s “out there,” I realize that it’s a quick bus ride from my house on the #72. And way worth it.

    I’m not sure that it needs comparison to Van Hahn, though I’d say that while I like it there, too, I definitely never got the same warm feeling from anyone who worked there. I really want this place to do well and to succeed. It’s new, and definitely not in the thick of “vegan portland” or whatever, but I hope that more people go there and discover it and give it a chance. It was definitely some of the most delicious vietnamese food I have ever had, so much so that when I thought of where I might want to eat today, the memory of my last time there came up almost right away.

    love,
    Michelle

  3. I forgot to mention that I liked those green walls! And I remember when I went there with my friend Abby the first time (she is omni, btw), she took pictures of the sauces at the table (she liked their arrangement) and the pop star calendar and the assortment of items by the register (like a shrine of some kind). The music was 80’s radio this time, and it kept making us laugh.

  4. I normally agree with your reviews 100% but I have to disagree with you on this one. First I have to say the owners are awesome people, the guy always remembers me and my family and if me or my wife does to-go he always asks how we are doing.
    Here are some dishes I recomend trying, spicey noodle soup, fish in tomato sauce, roasted gluten, crab noodle soup, the vietnamese crepes, roasted fish and the hot pot for two. We live right down the street and it is nice to have a vegan option with in walking distance or a short drive depending on the weather.
    I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 for sure, but that is just me.

  5. Personally, I am curious to know if they blatantly stole (most of?) the menu, practically word for word, item for item, from Van Hanh, if they were allowed to, or what…
    I remember reading the menu when they first opened (though I haven’t visited yet) and seeing the same spelling errors on both of them!

  6. I don’t think it was a matter of stealing, I am sure that they belong to the same temple as the people behind Van Hahn. Also the menus are slightly different, I never saw crab noodle soup on Van Hanh’s menu though I may have just missed it.

  7. hey shawn, I’m not saying it was a malicious thing, that never occured to me – I didn’t realize they belonged to the same temple – makes me think it was sharing. I simply thought it was odd, but why complain if I like the Van Hanh menu as it is, I suppose.
    And they could have changed their menu from the time I looked at it (pre-opening) and compared it to the Van Hanh one I had at home.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  8. We were super excited to go here but the food was bland, overcooked, stale and old, some to the point of tasting spoiled! I was really hungry so I ate some anyway but I felt ill by the time we left.

  9. I really love Nhut Quang. I never have liked Van Hahn, the workers aren’t friendly, there is question of the veganness of things and the food is so greasy. Nhut Quang has much less oil, the veggies are fresh, the owner is really friendly and vegan and the menu is awesome. Lemongrass tofu, the bbq bun, the fried noodles with veggies and the currry are all awesome.

    It’s a Vietnamese restaurant, like Van Hahn. Just like any Chinese restaurant you go into, they are going to have really similar menus. If 2 Chinese restaurants have Kung Pao Chicken and Chow Mein they aren’t accused of having the same menu.

    I really like Nhut Quang and eat there often. I hope that other Portlanders get over their fear of traveling 5 blocks and realize that supporting a delicious restaurant is more important that being oh-so-cool.

  10. I went to Van Hunh and the food was pretty bad. The steamed buns were weird, and the veggie pho tasted like white. Bland.

    My Fiancee ordered a spicy pho style soup there as well. No flavor, just lots of pepper that was painful to consume.

    Now Nhut Quang on the other hand! WOW! The pho tasted like Veggie Pho is supposed to. Lots of texture and a flavorful broth. I will be back very soon.

    We also ordered the veggie spare ribs. Very good! Summer Roles, tasty to.

    For the love or God and all that is holy…if you want imaginative veggie pho do NOT go to “Got Pho?” I couldnt believe how bland that place was! They just threw veggies in boiling water and served some garlic for me to toss in it. Made me ill. Boring and no texture. $7 for the taste of nothing.

    I will have to try Pho Green Papaya. See if they add some good flavoring and texture…not just veggies and hot water, or burn my mouth to hell.

  11. We tried to eat there on Friday but they had a sing in the window saying closed until May 24th for remolding. Maybe you can do a follow up review when they are reopened?

  12. oh, remodeling… that doesn’t sound good.

    I have to say, I thought Nhut Quang was okay, but my first visit was kinda scary, and my partner had the same sort of impression (he’s vegan, I’m omni). I was not so impressed with the viet crepes, and we ordered a pile of food: salad rolls, which were great; blackened whole fish, which really was burnt to a crisp; and a fake meat/cauliflower dish. I love vietnamese and I generally like vegan, but beyond the salad rolls, I was having a hard time with everything else.

    The second time I went, I got the bun (rice noodles), and my sweetie got the fake chicken legs. He was totally freaked out by them. I thought they were okay. My bun was great, though.

    I do hope they come back. However, they are buddhist first and cooks second and that comes through pretty loud and clear. To me at least.

  13. They are re-opened, they only remodeled the kitchen and got a new chef. They added some new menu items (I got “roasted pork” which was good) and changed the recipe on the Buns and roasted gluten (amazing, must try!). Anyway maybe give them another try, and everyone else support them, there is not much for vegan options in the area and would be really bummed to see them go under.

  14. Oh, I see you’ve already got the news! We were there yesterday, and I heard the same thing about the kitchen remodel/update. They also seem to be trying out some new things and working on their recipes — I had the new veggie steamed bun, which I loved! They didn’t have Vietnamese Crepes, as they took a bunch of things off the menu, but a lot of things will come back on the menu soon, the owner said, and I was assured that this was one of them. I was glad for it, though, cause we got to try other entrees: buddha bowl (a rice noodle, peanuts, and herb dish with a spicy dressing often referred to as “bun” I think) and lemon “chicken” that was so so yummy. Thinking about it makes me hungry again!

  15. We went there the other day. I thought the atmosphere was nice, bright and homey. Owner was super friendly of course as well. We got the steamed bun, the spareribs, and the egg rolls. The steamed bun was great, everything else was good but the bun is probably the only thing I would get again. There’s so much other stuff to try. Some of the soups sound awesome, I’d like to try some of those as well as the vermicelli bowls and roasted gluten. With two apps and one entree (the ribs came with rice, also), we both got pretty full for under 12 bucks. I’m curious about their vegan Vietnamese iced coffee, as Vietnamese coffee usually has syrupy condensed milk — maybe they just use soymilk? Something to try in the summertime.

    Over all the ingredients were fresh and tasty. I think I would prefer it over other Vietnamese restaurants in the area, even if it weren’t 100% vegan.

  16. We tried to eat at Nhut Quang last night, but it turns out they’ve changed their hours. According to the sign in the window, it’s now closed on Mondays, and open Tues-Sun from 10 am – 8 pm.

  17. BEWARE!!! This place is NOT all vegan. On a recent visit, we asked what was in the Vietnamese tea, and out came a can of condensed cow’s milk to show us. Although we stated several times we did NOT want milk in our drinks and we were vegan, the waiter brought us tea with condensed milk. When we said we didn’t want it, we got just plain tea, as if they didn’t even have soy milk in the place.

    The younger guy who is there speaks very good English, but for some reason that day he was in the kitchen and an older guy who clearly didn’t understand English at all waited on us. He didn’t write down what we ordered and had to come out 3 times to ask us again, finally asking me to write it down for him…

    If you look at the menu, it says the food is vegan and has a list of the things that are not in the food – honey, meat, eggs… but dairy is never mentioned. I suspect a lot of their fake meats have dairy in them.

  18. Jax – I kind of suspected that but I didn’t have any proof, it just seemed like a language barrier issue. But now you mention it, the menu didn’t say anything about dairy!
    I am sorry you had the experience you had and I hope it was just a one-time fluke!

  19. I really wish they or Van Hanh were close in, I’d go frequently. Too bad they didn’t make it : (

  20. My husband and I had really fallen for this place, specifically the Buddha Bowl. When we went for lunch last weekend and saw it was closed, we we heartbroken. I guess we’ll try Van Hanh and just hope to be as impressed.

  21. Hey, yes, same Michelle who sung the praises of Nhut Quang in my comment up there back in April ’08. This is a restaurant that only got better with time, each time the owner and staff getting more and more friendly as we continued to support the restaurant and become regulars, the food getting tastier and tastier, and the experience getting more and more joyful. It’s rare to find such a place that cooks with such love. It’s the kind of place that you knew I really liked you if I took you there.

    I will miss it immensely.

  22. I’m sorry to see this place go. The couple times I ate there the food was pretty good, and the younger owner (very friendly, as others have said) spoke good English so you could ask questions, make substitutions, etc. So unlike Van Hanh in that sense – while I like their food too, sometimes the hassle of trying to talk to the women there is too much, and when an order goes wrong, you’re out of luck because there’s no communicating that fact.

    Anyway, back to Nhut Quang – it was NOT a vegan restaurant. Because vegan restaurants don’t stock cans of condensed milk, right?

    I do hope they come back and get better exposure soon.

  23. Speaking of Van Hanh, last time we were there their recycling container was filled with giant empty cans of oyster sauce, not the mushroom flavored type, but the real deal, oysters…..we haven’t been back since. For what it’s worth we didn’t ask them if they actually used the stuff. So next time any of you go, please inquire about oyster sauce usage, and let us all know.

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