Nha Trang | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

Nha Trang

photo by Anne Fishbein

When Nha Trang opened a few years ago, it did so in a space not much bigger than a Beverly Hills closet, with a menu not much longer than a Lydia Davis short story. Still, folks lined up by the dozen to be replenished by its signature bun bo Hue, a Vietnamese beef soup with thick rice noodles swimming in a murky red broth spiked with lemongrass, cubes of blood and pig knuckles. Nha Trang’s version was, and continues to be, one that reaches such a depth of flavor that you can’t help but wonder what the restaurant could do if it weren’t constrained by a market that expects low price points even for the most intensive bowls of soup. Nha Trang has since expanded into something of a mini-empire across the San Gabriel Valley; it now has four locations throughout the SGV, all of which are considerably bigger than its original, though all with essentially the same core menu of chicken pho (pho ga), crab-tomato soup (bun rieu) and, of course, bun bo Hue. Thus if you find one location is out of your choice soup, as folks often did back when Nha Trang was just that one tiny restaurant, there’s probably, thankfully, a full pot simmering just a few blocks away. —Tien Nguyen