Words & Images by Cory Thurman, College Station Needs A Waffle House
Went to Nam Cafe for lunch today. It’s their first day, most of their menu is available during this week’s soft opening.
Of course, I went for the pho. Love the stuff. You can tell from tasting the broth they put a lot of work into it. It’s clear and has a slight mouthfeel. For those that don’t know, pho broth is made by boiling bones, meat, marrow, etc for hours and includes spices like star anise. The collagen dissolves and gives that unctuous mouthfeel their both has. Now, it being clear is also a lot of work. The boil components have to be boiled a bit and then dumped, then refilled and boiled again until it stays clear. The owner said they do the boil step multiple times.
There are three different pho broths to choose from, which I personally haven’t encountered before. Usually it’s just one broth, beef. Nam Cafe has beef, chicken, and vegetarian. I chose beef, with fatty brisket and tendon. The broth has a deep beefy flavor and is just the right amount of salt. Standard accompaniments of bean sprouts, jalapenos, basil, and lime. They have a little condiment section with chili oil and chili paste. Sriracha on the table, along with hoisin sauce. I’ll usually eat half of it and then add some hoisin and sriracha but it just doesn’t need it. And because it’s not overly salty, I drank the rest of the broth. Tendon may sound scary but it’s actually quite tender. They also have tripe.
I also got some spring rolls. Standard ingredients, with peanut sauce on the side. Really good too. Peanut sauce is a little on the thick and sweet side but a spritz of sriracha fixed that up. Chili oil would probably work really well too. Owner said they’re still tweaking the menu items and may adjust the peanut sauce. The rolls themselves were perfectly made, no tough spots on the wrap from being made in advance and left in a fridge. Nice presentation, being cut in half and arranged. Makes sharing easier too.
The decor is top notch and has a modern industrial feel to it. It’s actually really well put together. I took note of the giant sink in the restroom. Staff were very friendly and didn’t seem to have the usual first day jitters. Everything went smoothly.
If you don’t already know, the owner of Nam Cafe is also the owner of the adjacent BonAppetea, a place with banh mi sandwiches, coffee, and tea smoothies (including bubble tea).