Nha Hang Viet Nam Vietnamese Food | Chicago

An Argyle Street newcomer shines

Time was, Argyle Street was our go-to for an inexpensive feast.

Then we were distracted by Chinatown's new offerings, and heeded the call of a new Thai spot farther north.

Then, a newcomer quietly opened. After a recent visit, we have vowed to return with haste.

Nha Hang Viet Nam is a tiny, family-run restaurant with an ambitiously sprawling menu. Start with slippery, garlic-laden deep-fried chicken wings ($5.50), and prepare for inevitable finger-licking.

Salads crowned with puffed shrimp crackers are fresh and bright, a tour of the region's best combination of hot, sour, salty and sweet. Try one with squid ($12), laden with tangles of pickled peppers, fresh basil, cilantro and a heavy dose of ground peanuts.

Flavorful slices of grilled beef bo nuong vi ($13) smack of lemongrass. Dunk the meat in accompanying nuoc cham and wrap it in rice paper with herbs, lettuce and cucumber.

We happily slurped sour, seafood-packed bun mam and sweetly spiced pho, and spooned the fish-sauce-rich caramel of a sizzling catfish clay pot over rice.

And yet we barely scratched the surface of the menu's 200 offerings. In other words: Go hungry, and with a group.

Nha Hang Viet Nam, 1032 W. Argyle St.; 773-878-8895