Less than a week after I posted an ecstatic note about revisiting Nam Viet, an old favourite restaurant that had dropped off my radar, the management announced that they would be closing after 20 years.
Nam Viet was founded by Nguyen Van Thoi, whose life story could be the basis for an epic HBO miniseries. When he died in 2005, the Washington Post published this incredible obituary.
The walls at Nam Viet held pictures of Mr. Nguyen and many of the military and political leaders who were his friends and patrons, like Attorney General Janet Reno and Senator John McCain. There are also group pictures of some of the men who attended the annual dinner for American POWs that Mr. Nguyen held at his restaurant.
(Mr. Nguyen had spent two years in a “re-education” camp after the fall of Saigon, and later escaped Vietnam in a small fishing boat.)
Trying to make up for lost time—at least a little bit—I had lunch at Nam Viet twice during its final week on Connecticut Avenue.
The Caramelized Pork was one of the chef’s specialties. It was made with tender pieces of pork shoulder sautéed in Nam Viet’s homemade fish sauce reduction, with onions and fresh cracked black pepper,
In one of the many online postings about Nam Viet’s closing, a customer raved about the Shrimp Toast, so I decided to give it a try. It was so good that I had it as my starter for both lunches.
It’s made with deep-fried ground shrimp pâté, spread on a sesame baguette.
I mean, just look at it!
My final meal at the restaurant. Vietnamese Seafood Curry, made with carrots, snap peas, potatoes, ginger, lemongrass, and yellow coconut milk curry. The seafood was a medley of calamari, shrimp, and scallop.
There is a silver lining. Though the DC Nam Viet has closed, for now, at least, the original restaurant is still open in Clarendon, Virginia. It’s a considerably longer distance away, but it’s worth the trip.