NJ Dining: Huong Viet


Huong Viet
358 Passaic Avenue, Nutley NJ

When your favorite restaurants close, there is always a mourning period. Sometimes, you know that they are going to be gone forever, but in other cases, you get a glimmer of hope, hearing rumors that they may open again somewhere else.

One such restaurant was Little Saigon in Montclair, a Vietnamese favorite with a loyal clientele. Little Saigon had closed before, due to a fire in its original Nutley location on Franklin Avenue in 2003. The restaurant  re-opened in 2005 in a much larger Montclair space on Elm Street. In October of 2009, Little Saigon closed suddenly and without any warning.

But late last year we heard rumors that the owners were going to re-open, and re-open it did, in the original town where it all started, in Nutley. However, “Little Saigon” is no longer — it has returned to business, with the same owners, as Huong Viet on Passaic Avenue, in a much more manageable space than its previous location.

Huong Viet is the new Pho King of Nutley. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Huong Viet’s storefront on Passaic Avenue in Nutley. I had some trepidation with the restaurant opening so close to another local Vietnamese favorite, Binh Duong in nearby Bloomfield, which opened shortly after Little Saigon’s original Nutley location burned down in 2003.

However, Little Saigon is more upscale and can accommodate larger parties and more diners, whereas Binh Duong’s menu is somewhat different and is in more of the $25 and under category. Now that I have dined at both, I believe the area will be able to accommodate two very good and yet different Vietnamese restaurants.

Main Dining Room (daylight)

Main Dining Room (lunchtime)

Main Dining Room (evening)

Waitress dressed in traditional Vietnamese Gown for Lunar New Year (Tet). A large group of us gathered for the first night of Tet/Chinese New Year, which coincided with Valentine’s Day in 2010.

Spring Rolls (Cha Gio). These are filled with vegetables, pork and cellophane noodles.

Spring Roll Cross Section

Fried Squid

Fried Squid on a different occasion

Beef Rolls with Rice Noodles

Shrimp and Pork Crepe (Banh Xeo) made with rice flour, tumeric and coconut milk and stuffed with shrimp, pork and beansprouts.

Crepe Portion

Wonton (Huanh Tanh) Soup, lunch portion

Pho Soup.  Huong Viet’s has a strong anise and beef bone flavor, which as it should be.

Pho Soup

Combination Pho Closeup

Shrimp and Pork Cabbage Salad

Shrimp and Green Papaya Salad (Photo by Eric Eisenbud)

Fried Sweet Potato Bird Nests with Shrimp

Vietnamese Chicken Curry with Sweet Potato

Pork Casserole with Caramel Sauce. One of my all-time favorite Vietnamese dishes, and Huong Viet’s is excellent. (Photo by Eric Eisenbud)

Summer Rolls (Goi Cuon)

Summer Rolls

Summer Roll cross section

Lemongrass Shrimp (Lunch Portion)

Grilled Pork Meatballs with Rice Noodles

Fried Vietnamese Catfish, a table favorite

Sauteed Mustard Greens with Garlic

Mustard Green Soup with Pork and Shrimp, one of my favorite soups, both healthy and satisfying.

Curry Frog Legs

Shrimp in Curry

Grilled Ginger Beef Rolls

Boneless Stuffed Chicken with Chestnuts, Pork, Apricots

Chicken with Sauteed Vegetables

Beef Wrapped in Grape Leaves

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Vietnamese Egg Custard (Flan)

18 Responses to NJ Dining: Huong Viet

  1. […] NJ Dining: Little Saigon (CLOSED) February 2010: Little Saigon has re-opened as “Huong Viet” in Nutley. […]

  2. sixelagogo says:

    yay! can’t wait to check it out- how’s the pho?

  3. I just ate dinner, and these photos still made me hungry. I know of the French influence in Vietnamese cooking, but was surprised to see grape leaves. Sorry I missed this meal.

  4. Fredknows says:

    Jason:

    Looks good, sounds interesting. Do you have a menu to post?
    By the way, the owner looks somewhat “Vulcan” in that dress (an ear bob?)

  5. Do these places deliver to North Carolina? I’m a good tipper.

  6. Josephine says:

    The problem is that I can never find friends or family who are willing to try something out of their ‘comfort zone’. Are you planning an OTB get together?

  7. Ike says:

    A get-together sounds good to me too. There are a few NJ people in the World Food Lovers group on Meetup, and I’m an asst. organizer there, but this place isn’t close to a train station, so I might not get many takers, especially not in winter. If anybody reading this is interested in an outing, I’m at ikehull at yahoo dot com.

  8. Curlz says:

    The food here is WONDERFUL. The service, not. Actually, non-existent might be the better description. It was a problem that plagued them in Montclair and I knew many people who wouldn’t go for that reason. My advice is to GO–but go expecting a ridiculously long wait–without apology–for the wonderful food.

    Don’t miss those grilled ginger beef rolls (and note that there are 3-4 different beef rolls on the menu)…the frog’s legs dish that’s pictured above is also available with chicken (it’s on the menu) and with shrimp (not sure if that’s listed, but they’ll make it), or the mustard greens with garlic. The shredded pork summer rolls were also very tasty.

    • The thing about the service is that it has ALWAYS SUCKED. Well, maybe not always. When they were in their first Nutley location they were about the same size as Binh Duong and were very manageable. We never had a major service issue there. When the place burned down and they re-opened in Montclair, David Corcoran totally dinged them for the crappy service. We thought that by moving back to Nutley to a smaller (but still significantly larger space than their first incarnation) they would improve their service issues, but so far they are still screwed up. The pretty Cambodian waitress who speaks fluent English and Vietnamese is really good but she is clearly overwhelmed and doesn’t have enough people helping her out.

      • Curlz says:

        Well thanks for answering THAT question…I was wondering aloud if they had this problem in their original location! As for the Cambodian waitress, there was no sign of her at all last night–one guy who seemed to be running the show from behind the ‘bar’ and one VERY clueless young woman.

        So–Binh Duong has renovated. HV has nearby competition–and where do you think people will go if the service is even slightly better at BD?

  9. Curlz says:

    Thanks for that link, Victor; I posted a few more details about our most recent dinner there.

    In this economy, people WILL take their $ elsewhere–even if it means food that’s not as good–because they don’t want to deal with basic issues like not having plates/silverware/water/tea or they’re not receiving dishes that they ordered!

  10. You are so right, Curlz.

  11. […] restaurants in Northern NJ, with the re-opening of “Little Saigon” in Bloomfield as Huong Viet. Recently, another local favorite, Binh Duong, also did some minor renovations and I’d like […]

  12. Susan Gifford says:

    I’m thrilled to hear that Little Saigon has reopened, but unhappy to hear that the service issues remain. I really think that’s what killed them in Montclair–the food was amazing, but the place was always empty, because once people got it in their heads that the service sucked, they just wouldn’t go there. In the final months (and Little Saigon actually gave months of notice that it was leaving, with a sign on the door), the servers and owners were not only slow, but cranky.

    We’ll give it a chance because we miss it so much. But it used to be five minutes away, and now it’s a schlep, so I hope they pick up the pace. I didn’t know aobut Binh Duong, but am glad to try that one, too.

  13. Curlz says:

    Unfortunately it doesn’t sound like the folks at Huong Viet are getting their act together service-wise:
    http://www.baristanet.com/food/2010/03/thinking_of_vie.php#comment-461319

    Last time I went I ordered takeout. Told it would be 25 minutes, I got there after 40, thinking I was beating them at their own game. Sadly, we waited an additional 25 minutes once we got there. I implore anyone who knows the owners to talk to them and share these issues! If they put just a little effort into talking to customers and letting them know things are backed up in the kitchen, they’re understaffed, or whatever, it would help. A little.

    For now I think I’ll just stick to takeout and only when I can plan for picking it up an hour later.

  14. […] Off the Broiler Pho Fever Share and […]

  15. […] meat, Vietnamese street stall food or authentic in exacting detail like Nha Trang in Jersey City,  Huong Viet in Nutlley or even Bloomfield’s Binh Duong — this is a more refined interpretation of […]

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