I’m kicking myself for living in Sacramento for nearly four years before I visited Andy Nguyen’s. I love both Vietnamese food and vegetarian food, but for some reason, I had never tried the best-known local spot that combines the two.
Not that I’m actually a vegetarian. Which gets to one thing to recommend AN’s—the deceptively realistic imitation meat. We visited, appropriately, one night after yoga at Zuda, and we’re thus completely blissed-out and indecisive as we went over the numerous menu options (I have been known to not recognize people I’ve been acquainted with for years in the moments after coming out of yoga—if you’re reading this, you may know who you are).
Anyway, clay pot dishes are a personal favorite of mine. These usually consist of fish, slow-cooked in a clay pot with spices, onions, rice and other items until they reach a deep, caramel-flavored intensity. AN’s features numerous clay pot dishes, all of which sounded great at the time. We finally settled on the Mahayana clay pot ($8—did I mention AN’s is pretty cheap, too?). This had hunks of eggplant and imitation meat—not sure what kind of meat it was trying to be, though it did a good job. But the star here was the sauce, a deep brown flavor explosion the suffused everything. When I go back, I’m going to make a point of trying some of the other clay pot dishes.
For an appetizer, we ordered a kind of fried okra ($9). Being from South Carolina, I love okra, particularly when it’s fried, though I thought this was the weakest dish we had. It did come with a lovely sauce, a kind of Indian-style chutney, red, grainy and hot, that went well. And appetizer didn’t really describe it, because it cost more than our entrees and came out at about the same time.
Our third dish was called Awakening of Faith ($8), their vegetarian take of the traditional Vietnamese noodle bowl, or bun. This consists of thin rice vermicelli served cool, with the standard vinegar sauce with bits of carrot floating in it that you dump in. On top were sprouts, garnishes and a imitation meat that did a pretty convincing job of being like pork.
This was the only part that really broke new ground—but you don’t need to break any new ground with bun. It’s great just like it is, especially as we head into the warmer months here in Sacramento. We’ll definitely be heading back when the heat kicks in.
AN’s also features a convenient Broadway location, an especially friendly and helpful staff, and a clientele that seemed far happier than your average group of people in a restaurant. But that could just be the yoga talking.