Now open in Fruitvale is NYUM BAI, a soulful Cambodian restaurant from Nite Yun, a La Cocina incubator program graduate. Perhaps you have had her wonderful soups and more at her various pop-ups and stand at the Emeryville Public Market? Well, now she has her own brick and mortar (in the former Half Orange), and it’s conveniently a minute walk (if that!) from the Fruitvale BART station (she’s a hop and a skip from fellow La Cocina graduate Reem’s). I’m telling you, my ride over on a Friday night was faster than driving to the Mission and looking for parking. Lucky us, because you’ll want to head over soon for her soulful cooking. The name means “let’s eat” (or “to eat rice”), which is how Nite’s mother would greet guests, and that’s exactly what you’re going to do.
First, you really should know her background (and the soundtrack at the restaurant will make more sense): “Nite Yun was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after her parents fled Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge regime. She grew up in Stockton, California, and moved to the Bay Area in her early 20s to pursue nursing, a career deemed worthwhile by her immigrant parents. Stockton boasts one of the country’s largest Cambodian populations, providing a cultural sanctuary of sorts for thousands of refugees who were separated from their home. Growing up, Nite’s father would play popular records from ’60s-era Cambodia and her family would gather in the park on Sundays with neighbors for vibrant Cambodian barbecues. Today, her father’s beloved songs are a hallmark of her business, playing quietly in the background as guests slurp down hot bowls of kuy teav Phnom Penh, chef Nite’s signature pork noodle soup made with rice noodles, sliced beef, minced pork, shrimp, and topped with fresh herbs and crispy garlic.”
There’s more to learn about the record covers on the wall (if you look closely, you’ll see they are colored photocopies of the actual covers). It ends up it’s extremely rare to even find ’60s-era Cambodian rock ‘n’ roll records because they were all mostly destroyed by the Khmer Rouge when the regime came to power in 1975—and many artists were subsequently killed in the horrific Cambodian Genocide. A staff member let me know there is an organization trying to track down recordings and reissue them, while identifying surviving musicians and family members so they can collect royalties. (I started rabbit holing on this music’s story, and you can join me—I will be listening to this when I’m off deadline.) So those covers aren’t just kitschy décor—they have quite a story to tell.
As does her flavor-packed food. You can come by for lunch (the menu is full of affordable soups, noodles, and more), and there are some great bites to enjoy after work over a beer, like ginger fried chicken wings and the deeply flavorful prahok ktiss (stir-fried minced pork slowly simmered in coconut milk, salty prahok, fragrant kroeung, and sweet palm sugar) that you dip seasonal vegetables into. For a starter, you can share the rich and aromatic amok (steamed fish with fragrant kroeung, coconut milk, and egg served in banana leaves and topped with coconut cream and lemon zest) with your tablemates.
It’s chilly right now, and what you want is the machoo kroeung soup (spare ribs marinated in fragrant kroeung paste with water spinach, eggplant, roasted bird’s-eye chile, curry leaves, prahok, and tamarind in a beef broth)—the soup was extraordinary with its deep flavor. I can’t wait to return for the kuri saramann (rich curry with braised short ribs seasoned with cardamom, ginger, and chile paste in coconut cream sauce, topped with roasted peanuts), which, it’s worth noting, is only $15.95—the most expensive item on the menu. Save a little room for the nom krouch (sesame balls filled with palm sugar) for dessert.
The beer menu is full of quality local craft beers, from Fort Point to Temescal Brewing to Henhouse on tap. Shaken matcha tea and Khmer cold-brew also sound fantastic. It’s a tiny spot (but that didn’t stop a group of folks who came in for dinner!), but there are counters where you can slide in, and there’s a patio that will be in use soon too. Lunch is served Wed-Mon 11am-3pm and dinner 5pm-8:30pm, closed Tue. You’ll find it in the Fruitvale Transit Village at 3340 E. 12th St., Suite 11 at 34th Ave., Oakland.
Some other quick pieces of news for you:
CHOW OAKLAND has opened on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland (its third East Bay location, joining Lafayette and Danville). It’s not just a restaurant, but also a grocery store (including a meat and fish counter, dry goods, produce), bakery, and hot and cold prepared food counter. Read this post on Nosh for more. Open Mon-Thu 7am-9:30pm, Fri 7am-10pm, Sat 8am-10pm, and Sun 8am-9:30pm. 3770 Piedmont Ave. at Yosemite, Oakland.
Nosh also has word on BRAZILIAN BREADS, newly open in Berkeley, a tapiocaria which will make pão de queijo fanatics very happy (a cheese bread that also makes gluten-free folks happy too). 1707 Solano Ave. at Tulare, Berkeley. [Via Nosh.]
And then there’s the opening of AUGIE’S MONTREAL DELI (known for popping up at Beauty’s Bagels a couple of years ago), featuring smoke meat sandwiches (which is like a brisket love child of pastrami and corned beef), along with Canadian poutine and a reportedly notable smoke turkey sandwich. You can read more about owner Lex Gopnik-Lewinski’s smoke meat obsession in this Nosh piece. Open Mon-Tue 11am-3pm, Wed-Sun 11am-10:30pm. 875 Potter St. at 7th St., Berkeley.
Get ready for some flava! The prahok ktiss at Nyum Bai. Photo: © tablehopper.com.