Food

Nam Vietnamese Brasserie promises to go beyond pho in Redwood City

When Anne Le Ziblatt first started opening her own restaurants, she wanted to battle the notion that Vietnamese food was supposed to be cheap.

The daughter of the family behind Vung Tau Restaurant in San Jose, Le Ziblatt opened Tamarine Restaurant in Palo Alto and Bong Su in San Francisco in the early 2000s, serving carefully plated Vietnamese dishes on white tablecloths.

Now, with her upcoming restaurant Nam Vietnamese Brasserie, she’s addressing a different issue: the lack of affordable mid-tier dining options in the Bay Area. Nam is scheduled to open in mid- to late February in downtown Redwood City, in the nearly 50-seat space that formerly belonged to the Striped Pig.

“I can’t get out of almost anywhere for less than $150 unless I’m willing to go to a fast-casual place or a mom-and-pop spot,” Le Ziblatt said. “My goal (at Nam) is for you to go and have two entrees, a side and a glass of wine for $50.”

While casual spots increasingly offer fantastic food, Le Ziblatt said they too often make diners feel “processed through a cafeteria line.” She’s emphasizing staff training at Nam, where customers will order at a counter but also receive some table service, and designing a “gorgeous, warm, inviting and stylish” dining room.

The restaurant, with gray tones, leather banquettes and a semi-open kitchen, will be inspired by Le Ziblatt’s hometown of Vung Tau, a port city in southern Vietnam. There will be a large mural depicting a typical fishing village scene, and the dishes will highlight the region’s emphasis on fresh herbs like garlic chives.

Le Ziblatt said she hopes Nam exposes diners to a wider range of Vietnamese noodle soups beyond pho. One signature will be hu tieu nam vang, which translates to Phnom Penh noodle soup. It’s the Vietnamese version of the Cambodian classic, popularized locally by Nyum Bai, featuring a pork and chicken broth with shrimp, garlic chives, Chinese celery and caramelized shallots.

“This broth is so layered that it’s as interesting if not more interesting to me than pho,” Le Ziblatt said.

The menu will also include noodle soups like Vietnamese crab udon and chicken pho as well as grilled items, such as honey five-spice chicken, lemongrass tofu and the Hanoi classic of grilled pork meatballs known as bun cha.

To drink, Nam will serve cold-pressed juices, tea and Vietnamese coffee plus beer and wine on tap. In an effort to maintain affordability, Nam will offer glasses of wine for $6.

Further down the line, Le Ziblatt hopes to add bia hoi, Vietnamese fresh beer that’s brewed daily. In Vietnam, a cup might go for 25 cents. At Nam, Le Ziblatt thinks she could sell it for $2 or less.

Nam Vietnamese Brasserie. Scheduled to open in February. 917 Main St., Redwood City. www.nambrasserie.com

Janelle Bitker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @janellebitker

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