Sunrise Restaurant (Nha Hang Rang Dong)
There's been a few scattered mentions of Sunrise Restaurant, but it's a place worth its own thread. Same goes for several other Vietnamese restaurants, an oft-overlooked core strength of the city that rarely gets mentioned to visiting eaters.
Sunrise is a cozy comfort food kinda place. Sunday supper is full of families and the sound of slurps - multiple generations sitting down at the table for a meal, ordering off the "Vietnamese Traditional Dishes" section of the menu which features fun family-style dishes.
One of which is suon ram man, caramelized pork chops braised/fried in coconut juice - a sweet & salty marinade, subtle coco-notes, crispy pork nuggets. Wrap in lettuce, roll in nuoc mam, pass the plate to Gramma beside you. If there's only one nugget left, eat it.
A bit less accessible to everybody at the table is kho qua (bitter melon) which, depending on the cucurbit you bit, can sometimes be on the nuclear end of the bitter spectrum. Kho qua xao trun (bitter melon w/ eggs) is a nice way to enjoy the fruit, the scrambled eggs taking a bit of the bite off (but not too much).
Ca kho to (caramelized claypot catfish) is a fairly common dish, though often runs too sweet - this silky sauce is nicely balanced by salt (fish sauce) and a showering of sharp black pepper, it's a fine example of how good this simple dish of a few ingredients can be.
Sunrise offers a small breakfast menu, mostly chaos (congee), but they are a fine way to break the fast (or a hangover). Speaking of hangovers, there's no booze, but they have a vast arrray of excellent drinks - from high-octane Vietnamese coffee, an equally eye-opening lemonade (I like the salty version), to fresh juices and boba-shakes.
Any soul-kitchen worth its salt has to know its way around a soup or two. The chao is but one, but in general Sunrise's soups are quite good, though I'll confess to not having tried any pho yet. They do offer the kissing crab cousin soups though - bun rieu and canh bun - both I'm told prepared using a (laborious) homemade crab paste. I still haven't had a restaurant version of either that was crabby enough, but I applaud Sunrise for exerting the effort to make their own crab paste (versus tinned). Their broth for both soups is a pork/shrimp base, and one occasion a trotter was found in my bowl of bun rieu to prove the pork. The main difference between the two soups (at least at Sunrise) is that bun rieu contains tomatoes, vermicelli noodles, and ong choi whereas canh bun utilizes a thicker noodle (in this case spag), no tomatoes, and spring onions. The broth is clean, not watery nor greazy, but enriched by crab paste floaties. Both soups come with plenty of fried tofu, fishcakes, and pork bloodcakes. Standard protocol as with all soups dictates doctoring up table-side with the condiment-caddy. Slurp.
There's a third crab cousin soup, banh canh cua, which is much lighter, white like congee, in a crab meat broth thickened by chewy tapioca flour noodles. Each soup is very precisely garnished with some herbs, fried shallots, shaved onions, and one turn of cracked black pepper.
The salads are maybe my favourite goi around town - just misted with good dressing, not swimming in a cloying pool.
Rice plates seem to be a strong suit - juicy grilled pokechops, slivered pork and pork/egg-loaf (com suon bi cha) comes topped with a lacy-edged fried egg over (non-broken) rice.
I'm not sure if Sunrise is best-in-show for any one particular dish, but it will consistently delight on many fronts.
1157 Dorchester Ave
suon ram man (caramelized braised/fried pork chops in coconut juice)
kho qua xao trung (bitter melon w/ egg)
ca kho to (caramelized claypot catfish)
com tay cam (claypot seafood rice)
bun rieu (crab vermicelli soup)
canh bun (crab spaghetti soup)
banh canh cua (crab tapioca flour noodle soup)
com suon bi cha (grilled pokechop, slivered pork, pork-eggloaf over rice)
goi tofu (tofu salad)
Thanks yaar, I only wish it was AYCE !
And a huge thanks for sniffing out bun mam at Hien Vuong (Sunrise does not have it) - I've not had bun mam before, though it seems to be popping up in conversation more than ever this year. San Jose (largest Vietnamese population) seems to be jumping on bun mam recently too - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/875469 - and I know some friends in Chicago have been raving about its appearance at a restaurant there (Nha Hang). I am looking forward to checking it out - thanks again, Prav !