Successful Houston restaurant groups seem to love to open fast casual spin-offs. The Schiller Del Grande Group started Cafe Express, and the Corduas have Amazon Grill. Last year, Kim Son owners the La family launched NAM: Noodles and More in Rice Village. Admittedly, NAM hadn't been on my radar until recently, when I noticed a new location on West Gray near Dunlavy. Growing up as a devoted Kim Son fan, I recently paid the new location a visit for lunch.
The inside is clean and bright with large screens displaying the menu and plenty of seating. Order at the counter, get a number and a server brings the food after a short wait. The menu covers most of what one would expect to find at a Vietnamese restaurant with various noodle soups, vermicelli bowls, rice plates and banh mi all available. Prices are a couple bucks higher than might be seen at Midtown or Bellaire Vietnamese spots.
I immediately saw one of the reasons NAM's prices are higher than similar restaurants. The portions are enormous.
One nice thing that NAM offers is a condiment bar. No longer are diners limited to spicing up their pho with however many slices of jalapeno or cilantro happen to arrive on the plate. At NAM, head for the condiment bar and get exactly the right amount for maximum enjoyment.
Since one of the things I enjoy about Kim Son is the ability to get both Vietnamese and Chinese food, I ordered a hot and sour soup and a vermicelli bowl with lemongrass steak. They arrived promptly, and I immediately saw one of the reasons NAM's prices are higher than similar restaurants. The portions are enormous. By the time I finished my soup, I was only able to tackle about half of my noodles.
Sadly, as with Kim Son, the versions of both dishes are only "pretty good" compared to what I typically experience at restaurants that specialize in either cuisine. The hot and sour soup wasn't as spicy or as sour as other versions I've had, and the vermicelli noodles were so slick that I had to give up my chopsticks for a fork.
Overall, my meal at NAM was solid, and I'll go back to try the pho and a banh mi. Ultimately, I don't see it replacing my default neighborhood options for either Chinese or Vietnamese, but that reflects my years of enjoying them more than anything NAM didn't do.
Could the La family expand NAM across the city? Perhaps, although few areas of Houston lack for Vietnamese food options anymore. Still, the inviting atmosphere, efficient service and large menu should help it find fans.