Nha Trang Centre | 148 Centre St. (at Walker St.) | 212.941.9292
Teariffic | 51 Mott St. (at Bayard St.) | 212.393.9009


SO, MY VERY good friend, Kara (who I've known since she was in the sixth grade—not telling you the year....), has been urging me for quite some time to let her take me PHUDE-ing in Brooklyn, where she's lived this last few years. We our schedules finally allow, the first place she suggests is Chinatown. In Manhattan...!

Not that I'm averse to be taken anywhere new. And since she lives geographically closer to Chinatown than I do, and used to work in the Wall Street area, she's as good a Chinatown tour guide as anyone I know.

So Kara and I decided to meet for lunch at a place she recommnded called Nha Trang Center, a popular Vietnamese restaurant just a couple of blocks from the 6 train Canal Street stop.

She knew her way around the menu pretty well, and as I whole-heartedly trusted her judgment, I allowed her to do all the ordering, which started with the vegetable pho, a rice noodle in broth soup, with tofu.

Asian cultures are masters at great broths,and this was no exception. Light, non-oily, flavorful, and balanced, the aromatic liquid was boosted by bright, fresh, veggies,and the rice noodles were supple but firm, soaking up all those tastes and making for some very fun and necessary broth-sprinkling slurping. We both added sriracha sauce to our individual bowls for extra sinus-clearing kick.

Next was an appetizer of beer-steamed jumbo shrimp.

Perked up by punchy scallion and piquant cilantro, the snappy yet tender shrimp were well assisted by the strong but not overwhelming taste and aroma of beer. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical at a beer/shrimp combination that didn't involve the words beer or battered—although we were both reminded of my recent Mussels in Guinness broth dish—but this was a welcome surprise.

Lastly, we ordered the combination, which consisted of barbecued shrimp paste on sugar cane, pork paste, roasted beef, and spring rolls. This came with fresh basil, and fresh mint, as well as large lettuce leaves to wrap the proteins and accompanying rice noodles in.

With the unfortunate exception of the shrimp paste (better in idea than in execution), this dish was quite a winner. The pork and beef were nicely seasoned and tender, and were enjoyed more with wrapped in the lettuce with a leaf each of basil and mint, some rice noodles, and a drizzle of house-made vinegar dipping sauce. The springs deftly crispy and not greasy on the outside and chock full minced veggies and meat on the inside.

Serving more food than we could finish, and inexpensive as well, it was easy for me to see why this place was such a neighborhood favorite (especially among the other mostly Asian customers). And leave it to the lady, this time, Kara, to recommend making an additional stop for dessert.

Her suggestion was a busy spot called Teariffic which specializes in all assortments of bubble tea (tea-based drinks served with pearl tapioca). They serve food as well, but we walked in to sip on some refreshing and funk exotic beverages, as did more than a few other people, again almost all Asian.

And again, Kara had her favorites, the first being a black sesame milk tea—reminiscent of a sort of cookies & cream milkshake—followed by a peach black tea with aloe vera. I ordered a green barley null with lemon and honey, and we both picked a brightly green matcha agar tea drink that came with small cubes of coffee jelly. Together, they made for a colorful assortment. (And I thank Kara, an avid photographer herself, for her creative "inspiration" for of few of the following images!)

These each had their individual charms. The sesame black milk tea was sweet, frothy, sweet, creamy, and a little nutty in flavor, making it the most familiar in taste. The peach black tea with aloe vera was most like a regular tea, not only lighter in cloying sweetness, but rounded out by mellow herbal hints of the aloe vera. The green barley was just as smooth and delicious, visually accompanied by it's almost flourescent color. And the matcha agar tea—the most "mature" in its flavor Kara and I agreed—boasted a more bitter drink, with small cubes of intense coffee flavor mixing with it as liquid and jelly got sucked up the straw, but developed greater drinkability as we progressed through it (or as the melting ice diluted it).

All in all, a great day in Chinatown, with a really great friend who enjoys many of the same things, such as movies, food, and photography. So it's almost inexcusable that we don't see each other more often, especially being only a few transit line letters or numbers away in Brooklyn.

Speaking of which, as my Brooklyn consort/correspondent/tour guide, even after this terrific afternoon, she's off to a terrible start...! ;)

Bun Apple Tea!


Nha Trang Centre on Urbanspoon · Nha Trang Centre Teariffic on Urbanspoon · Tearrific

Nha Trang Centre | 148 Centre St. (at Walker St.) | 212.941.9292
Teariffic | 51 Mott St. (at Bayard St.) | 212.393.9009