justin adler, blog, buenos aires, bahia blanca, university of arizona, brooklyn, basketball, travel, paul mcpherson

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Nam Son

Since the basketball season is still a few months away and UA football isn't even worth anyone's bandwidth. I'm gonna run a little something I wrote for a bullshit English class last semester. It's the not the best writing in the world, but reading this still beats doing whatever homework you should be doing right now. Allow me to get my food critic on...

I have always been fascinated by Nam Son, a restaurant located just off campus that few students even know exists. Nam Son resembles a post-Hurricane Katrina Third Ward project house and is located on the southeast corner of Park Avenue and Sixth Street. It is nestled between the seedy U of A liquors and a filthy alley littered with an open dumpster and a thrown out couch. I have been intrigued by Nam Son’s ability to stay in business since I began walking past it every day on my way to classes. While walking past it countless times during the fall semester of my sophomore year I saw a grand total of three customers inside the restaurant. I just assumed it was a money laundering front for a Vietnamese Mafia. Surely no fine establishment would allow itself to become so weather-beaten and stay under the radar by not even advertising in the Arizona Daily Wildcat. Nam Son’s utter apathy for its appearance coupled with its clientele base of three people made the restaurant a must for me to try out.

One day I decided to test out Nam Son in hopes that the restaurant would make up for its horrendous appearance with some quality cuisine. The restaurant was kept clean on the inside and the cashier was polite and patient as I perused the menu which offered Chinese and Vietnamese meals. I chose off the Chinese menu and ordered the sesame chicken plate ($4.49), which came with my choice of fried or steamed rice, and an egg roll. I enjoyed Ellen Degeneres’ mediocre talk show as it played from the television sitting in the quaint dining area meal while my meal was freshly prepared.

My meal was brought to me and I was immediately impressed off appearance alone. The plate overflowed with rice and there was a bountiful amount of chicken, unlike Panda Express which at times shafts customers with light helpings of their main entrees. A small egg roll was gently placed on the side of the meal to complete the trifecta of Asian cuisine. The chicken was exceptionally average. There was nothing memorable about it and I believe I could prepare the same quality of food from home. I will not comment about the rice, because you have to go out of your way to mess up white rice and fortunately Nam Son did not. I am not the biggest fans of egg rolls, so my opinion is slightly biased, but I was not overly impressed with Nam Son’s egg roll. I found the vegetables to be less than flavorful or fresh.

Overall the meal was average and a decent value for the price. I was not overly ecstatic about the meal and at the same time I was not disappointed. Nam Son is restaurant equivalent of the ugly girl with only a decent personality, not offering enough to keep you wanting more.

Nam Son offers combo plates, which come with rice and an egg roll for $4.49 to $5.49. It also offers dinner plates, which are the same as combo plates, with larger proportions for $5.49 to $6.49. Its specialty dish is the Nam Son dish which comes with barbequed pork and shrimp covered in Vietnamese fish sauce served over steamed rice. Nam Son’s bi-national menu also has Vietnamese noodle bowls which range in price from $4.99 to $5.99. Nam Son serves freshly squeezed lemonade and canned juices, healthy alternatives to the soda they additionally offer. The only special they currently have is the Saturday two spring roll special for $3.49.

The indoor dining area holds room for 18 guests and proudly displays a Pima County Health Certificate of Excellence. Unfortunately upon closer inspection the certificate expired in December of 2001. However, the cashier showed me a current health certificate which showed they are still receiving an excellent rating. The restaurant also features outdoor seating which has 12 seats in addition to four benches.

According to the very friendly cashier, Bang Nguyen, Nam Son has been open since 1997 and has been under new ownership since October of 2006. Their main source of customers is University of Arizona students and faculty. They are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday. The cashier claims their busiest hours are between noon and 2 p.m. on week days, however I can’t imagine ever having to wait in line at Nam Son. They are not open on Sundays due to slow service.

Overall I would definitely not recommend Nam Son unless you want some middle-of-the-road food and a quiet place to study by yourself. College students must make the most out of every penny they spend dining out and Nam Son is simply not worth it. Until Nam Son renovates its menu and its sordid exterior I see it continuing to sit lonely with its sleazy surroundings waiting for someone to give it a shot and discover what average Asian cuisine tastes like. Nam Son’s odds of becoming a popular, respected restaurant will be as successful as the boring, ugly girl’s shot at finding a date to prom.

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