Another transplant from down south, where the famous Café Du Monde brings a taste of Vietnam with its roasted dark coffee brew and powdery beignets, is The Boil. The name coveys a witches’ pot of eye of newt and toe of frog. Fortunately, what is served is a rich, fragrant, and utterly delicious mélange of Creole style seafood thrown somewhat precariously and blending a tribute to Cajun seafood with Vietnamese flavors.
I met with one of the owners of The Boil, Donald Nguyen, to inquire how he came up with this idea for his restaurant. Why not open a Vietnamese restaurant in NYC? It’s the burning question that everyone asks when they find out what you are when you tell them you are Vietnamese. Where do you find a really good Vietnamese restaurant to eat in NYC? The longstanding answer is San Jose. Not that there isn’t anything decent in NYC, but compared to the other ethnic cuisines, Vietnamese restaurants are sorely lacking in authenticity in this area. Mr. Nguyen stated he didn’t quite have the chops to compete with San Jose, Montreal, or even Philadelphia in bringing Vietnamese dishes to NYC. Hence, Mr. Nguyen, a charismatic man born in Vietnam, bred in Brooklyn and a diehard New Yorker, decided to create his own niche in his hometown – a place to kick back, grab some crawfish and crabs, and devour. Quick, easy, and really good.
The Boil operates on a new age dining model with handheld devices for ordering and minimal wait staff. It’s more about the fresh seafood that arrives from Vietnamese fishing kings sourced in New Orleans, the Boil Special Sauce made with the all-famous ingredient of Fish Sauce – throw these ingredients together with some corn and potatoes and you have a recipe for success.
This establishment is not meant for the prissy and polite crowd, although they do have rubber gloves if you can’t stand to dirty your hands. There are directions on how to eat crawfish and a sign that states that you have a two hour limit. Don’t expect the frills (everything is disposable from the tablecloth to the serving bag), just the cheap thrills of amazingly fresh seafood with a flavor to die for. It’s better than any Vietnamese restaurant in NYC and it doesn’t pretend to be Vietnamese.
ANY Combo Platters with the Boil Special Sauce – make it spicy so you can brag about being able to handle your own.
Location: 139 Chrystie Street, New York, NY 10002