This garish Vietnamese restaurant on the southeastern edge of Little Saigon, across from Mile Square Golf Course, is known for Ca 8 Mon (8 courses of fish). Ca 8 Mon is on the sign. It’s the reason my friend Krystal and I drove to Fountain Valley. And there was no way we weren’t going to eat it.
Décor was garish. Near the path inside, there was a fake stone fountain, inextricably strewn with conch shells.
Luckily, the restaurant was packed with nothing but Vietnamese people, always a good sign when eating in a Vietnamese restaurant. The menu must have been 20 pages long, with whole sections devoted to such exotica as alligator steak, venison, wild boar, king snail, abalone, and the increasingly popular goat. Whole baked catfish was offered in sizes ranging from XS ($18.99) to XXL ($44.99). Each section featured a cartoon version of the corresponding animal. This is not a restaurant for vegetarians.
We ordered the Ca 8 Mon ($15.99), featuring eight preparations of sole. It was practically pre-ordained. They also offer Bo 7 Mon (seven courses of beef). Next time.
Our meal came with a plate of springy rice vermicelli, a large stack of “vegetables” like lettuce and mint for wrapping the food, and four sauces: peanut sauce crumbled with peanut, tamarind, fish, and a mysterious fourth sauce. Maybe too mysterious. As soon as I asked the waiter what the fourth sauce was, he quickly removed it from our table.
Egg rolls were crispy and light, not greasy. Fried fish strips were two-inch-long fried squiggles of sole, lightly breaded and flaky. Wrapped BBQ fish had the consistency of cigarette sized sole sausage, juicy and light. The sole forcemeat wrapped in lot leaves was equally juicy. The previous two dishes were topped with crumbled peanut and tender scallions.
Chao Ca (fresh fish porridge) was the eighth and final fish dish, a bowl of silken rice with velvety chunks of sole, topped with cilantro and diced onions.
With a menu that reads like a zoo’s wist-list, there will definitely be another visit to Nhu-Y, and I’ll bring more people to try more things. We’ll almost certainly order eight courses of fish again. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we chase it with an Extra-Extra-Large catfish, seven courses of beef, stir-fried alligator, and grilled venison. The animal kingdom is a big place, and with Nhu-Y’s help, I’m willing to turn my stomach into my own personal Noah’s Ark.
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