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$20 Dinner

Cloud Offers Up Reliable Vietnamese Comfort Food in the LES   

The food is good, if not all that exciting, and that cottony cloud on the ceiling is cool in a cheesy way.

A table filled with classic Vietnamese dishes.

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The story behind Cloud, a Vietnamese restaurant that opened about a month ago on the Lower East Side, began in the 1960s in a northeastern province of Thailand called Nakhon Phanom, according to co-owner Chan Maneesilasan.

Maneesilasan's family is originally from that province, which is near the border of Vietnam, he told Hell Gate. "And many decades ago, Vietnamese refugees came to settle there, and became friends with our grandmas, and they all exchanged recipes," Maneesilasan explained. "With Cloud, I want to honor these grandmas, honor the friendship they all shared and the passion for food between cultures."  

Not that Cloud is some sort of experimental Thai-Viet fusion restaurant—the menu here mostly plays it safe, dominated as it is by familiar Vietnamese fare. But cold weather is coming, when sometimes all you want is a big bowl of warm noodles, and Cloud definitely delivers on the comfort food front. There's some good pho to be had, a big bowl of restorative gingery broth swimming with slippery rice noodles and several types of beef: thin-sliced eye round, fatty tendon, fun little meatballs. Other noodle-based dishes include bahn cahn, which is heavy on the pork, and the stir-fried pho xao. 

Pho, $17. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The fried appetizer selection also covers well-trodden ground, with items like chicken wings and ribs (both are served with honey fish sauce), as well as calamari. One slightly more offbeat offering here is Cloud's version of cha gio, which finds the crispy spring rolls stuffed with both ground pork and a whole shrimp, as well as jicama and mushrooms. 

Cha gio stuffed with ground pork, shrimp, and mushroom, $14. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Another snacky, satisfying option are the mackerel rolls, which sub out the more common shrimp for filets of the oily fish, stuffed in there with the usual rice vermicelli and crunchy vegetables. Served chilled, they're especially good when dunked in the accompanying peanut sauce, and less good when dipped in the also-accompanying "tangy mayo."  

Mackerel rolls, $14. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The com suon nuong, or grilled pork chop, was less fatty and juicy than I usually like in my pig, though when plopped atop a mound of rice and drenched in fish sauce, it made for a satisfying meal. A runny fried egg also helped. 

Com suon nuong, $20. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

There's no beer or liquor available yet, which is a tough way to run a restaurant in this part of town, but Maneesilasan is hopeful that the liquor license gods will smile upon him soon. In the meantime, you can get an avocado smoothie or a peanut butter-infused coffee and bop along to quirky covers of pop-radio songs beneath the impressively expansive and goofily lit cotton-puff cloud hovering over the main dining room. 

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

"We had been looking for a location for months," Maneesilasan said. "And the first moment we walked in here, we were like, oh, this is the place. We are immigrants, and travel around the world like clouds. We're excited to be here and get to know this neighborhood." 

Cloud is located at 79 Clinton Street, between Delancey and Rivington Streets, and is currently open from noon to 10 p.m. daily (646-398-9911).

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
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