99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Summer Rolls

photo by Anne Fishbein

Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa closed late last year for renovations, reopening right around the Lunar New Year with a fresh coat of paint and a new name on its sign — Summer Rolls: A Nem Nuong Restaurant. If you’ve been here before, though, you’ll quickly realize that these changes are merely cosmetic; this is the restaurant you’ve always known, bursting with the same infectious energy. Families and extended families are, as always, cramming the tables for the nem nuong, very porky, charbroiled meatballs that you can, and should, order as part of a DIY spring-roll platter, which includes the nem nuong, pork sausage patties, cigarette-thin shrimp egg rolls, a plate overflowing with herbs and, finally, a thick pile of rice paper wrappers. That everyone here clearly loves to wrap and roll is an understatement: Mere days after reopening, there was barely an empty table in the house — no small feat given that the restaurant practically shares a wall with an In-N-Out Burger. Then again, if your stomach is set on stellar nem nuong, not even the smell of animal-style fries could convince you otherwise.

-- Tien Nguyen