Last night was the official opening for Nightingale 9, a Vietnamese street food spot that sneakily went up under the facade of a curious frame shop that just never seemed to be open. Outta nowhere, there was a name and last week, there was a sign proclaiming Thursday, February 21st to be the day. I really wanted to check it out, being such a big fan of Kerry Diamond’s other spots – Seersucker and Smith Canteen.
Walking in, you can see the small bar bordered by tables mostly in a L shape. There are some 2 person tables in the front but the back is mostly communal style, holding around 6 people each. The menu was divided into 5 sections: salads ($11-12), appetizers ($10-14), rice noodle soups ($10-12), vermicelli bowls ($11-15), and jasmine rice dishes ($10-15). While many of the dishes caught my attention, I did have to read carefully, as there were lots of dishes with mushrooms in them. They have beer and wine on tap, as well as several intriguing sodas (next time, I’m totally trying the tamarind soda) and teas.
To start, we had the Long Island Squid Salad, which was tamarind, peanuts, morning glory (this interesting green you see here, also referred to as “Chinese spinach” or “Swamp cabbage”), and fried garlic. The dish was refreshing and very light. A nice flavorful yet light way to start off the meal. I can’t say I’ve ever had fried garlic but it was kind of an amazing addition.
I opted for the Chao from the jasmine rice dishes. The dish had shredded chicken, cilantro, peanuts, and fried bread. It was a nice portion size – just enough to enjoy without feeling overwhelmed by food. The broth was light and topped with a heaping portion of cilantro (no problem by me).
My BF had the Berkshire pork rice noodle soup, which had roasted pork shoulder, country ham, cracklin, lemongrass, and annatto. I really liked his. It was quite spicy without adding any of their on-table assorted sauces. You could tell it would be as soon as they brought it out from the deep orangey red of the both (which apparently was due in part to the addition of the annatto).
For dessert, I have to confess we never got to see the menu. The party next to us took off, seemingly late for another event. They left behind a lady, who was still paying and, as it turned out, was also waiting for dessert. Since they’d left, she offered us their dessert. They were Popsicles – one a coffee with cream and the other a creamy lemongrass. They were so completely different. The coffee one was more icy than creamy, except for the thin layer of condensed milk running along the bottom. It packed a bit of a bite and was quite good. I think my favorite though was the lemongrass. It was so creamy and flavorful. I really enjoy the flavor of lemongrass but I’m much more accustomed to it in hot noodle dishes.i have to say, it’s a great cold flavor as well.
Wonderful first night here. Can’t wait to go back and try more things at this spot, in particular I’m already eying the cha ca catfish vermicelli bowl and the campanelli checken pho.
Nightingale 9 – 345 Smith Street (btwn 2nd & Carroll Streets)