Co’m Vietnamese Grill – Buford Highway, Atlanta, GA [A Review In Pictures]

Open roughly four years (at least by my count), Co’m Vietnamese Grill has become one of the de facto responses to the question: “Where do I go in Atlanta for good Vietnamese?”  It is therefore no surprise that this BuHi hotspot now has a devout following and a satellite location.

co'm grill - shrimp spring rollsThe original spot sits adjacent to Lee’s Bakery in a small strip center.  When you walk in, you find a mix of the expected and the unexpected.  The tables have that “stone” look – but it’s faux.  Meanwhile, the hipster Asian staff zips around (and yeah – she was hot thank you very much lunch buddies) and the decor makes you feel comfortable.  For those of you adverse to the divey nature of most BuHi eateries, the feel here should settle you a bit.  Co’m is going for a more upscale experience than their aforementioned neighbors; and, they succeed in that regard.

The menu here is built around the indigenous cuisine of Vietnam.  However, claims of true authenticity traditionalism fall flat.  It’s not that the menu is a departure from authentic cuisine so mach as it has been tempered with American sensibilities.  While certain spices have been held back (Five Spice), others that we may be more comfortable with seem to persevere.

The selection seems vast; however, if you eat here enough times – you begin to realize that there are only a handful of dishes.  The extra lines on the menu can be attributed to the selection of proteins.  Nothing outrageous is available, most every dish comes in your choice of beef, chicken, pork, lamb, or shrimp.  There are also sporadic appearances of duck and fish (particularly salmon).  Entrées hover between the $10 and $15 price point.

Before we take a look at the pictures from my recent excursion, please forgive my failure to use the authentic traditional names of these dishes.  Even I’m stumped as to how to properly invoke the appropriate characters that are required.

co'm grill - shrimp spring rolls by you.
Shrimp Spring rolls: Bright and crisp.  The shrimp was cooked sufficiently and seasoned so that the flavor of the protein was not lost amongst the vegetables.

co'm grill - mango, papaya, & apple salad by you.
Goi Salad: green papaya, green mango, and apple slices with minced grilled chicken, peanuts, and fried onions.  Simple flavors combined with the natural sweetness of the fruit to make this dish an easy eat.  Still, the fried onions seemed misplaced and I did not detect any rau rum (coriander).  Instead, I tasted cilantro.  Anyone else know this to be true?

co'm grill - beef grape leaf roll by you.
Bò Lá Lốt: Beef wrapped in grape leaves.  Easily my favorite dish of the meal.  Not being an expert, I can’t tell if these were actually grape leaves or betel leaves (authentic).  Still, I got the garlic, the fish sauce, and the turmeric.  Lite on the sugar, this one is the most likely to unnerve traditional American palates.

co'm grill - shrimp over fragrant rice w. egg close up by you. co'm grill - shrimp over fragrant rice w. egg by you.
Cơm tấm: grilled shrimp over fragrant rice (with a poached egg).  This was the best opportunity we had to sample the vegetables and the shrimp.  The vegetables used here are reasonably fresh; though they aren’t sourced locally.  Bummer!  Meanwhile, the shrimp themselves didn’t impress me.  They are somewhat dried out by the grill – not surprising considering that they spent some time in a deep freeze.  All the elements are here, and that is what makes this dish Vietnamese.  Flavor wise, it taste like the ingredients included but lacked any hint of the fish sauce I expected.  What’s with the fried onions?

At least they do in fact used crushed rice (aka com tam) for this dish.  Rice to the Vietnamese is bread to “Westerners.”  The crushed rice (aka broken rice) is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s the basis of vermicelli and comes from the cultivation of unprocessed rice crops.  The result is a rice that has a crunch to it and is slightly dryer than the long grain rice used elsewhere (and certainly dryer than Japanese sticky rice).

co'm grill - chao tom: shrimp on sugar cane by you. co'm grill - chao tom: the sugar cane shrimp over vermicelli by you. co'm grill - the leafy good stuff by you. co'm grill -  carrots and cucumbers by you.
Bánh hỏi Chạo tôm: ultimately disappointing.  The vegetables, as previously mentioned, were fresh enough that only the most discerning of eaters would complain.  Meanwhile, the use of fried onions was befuddling.  I’m not sure the minced shrimp wrapped around sugar cane (chao tom) is traditionally used in this dish.  It’s kinda hard to eat a since you basically use the greens to wrap up the protein.  Thus, you are forced to remove the shrimp before wrapping.  Meanwhile, the minced shrimp lacked any discernable flavor and it was somewhat dry.

For many diners, this restaurant continually scores amongst the best in Atlanta.  That it’s won so many awards might be more a testament to the dearth of top flight options here in the ATL and not a statement of Co’m’s own prowess.  I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been truly disappointed with Co’m.  That is perhaps because of my tempered expectations.  Instead, it falls into the long list of places that I don’t mind eating at.   Co’m still remains ahead of newcomer Chateau de Saigon; though the menus are very different.  I’ll leave my comments regarding places like Pho Dai Loi and Dua to their own devices.  More on those joints another time.

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Atlanta Foodies On Co’m Vietnamese Grill

Co’m Vietnamese Grill Restaurant Address & Information

4005 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30345 // 404.320.0405 // Co’m Website
Co'm Vietnamese Grill on Urbanspoon

10 comments Write a comment

  1. I’m not a big fan of Co’m. Perhaps it is because I have been to the dunwoody location much more than the Buford location. The Dunwoody locations food is sweetened up for the multitudes of suburbanites that hit the place up. I go there because it is close to work but never truly feel like I am eating Vietnamese. I have even mentioned this to the servers and they all say that the marinade or whatever it is , is much sweeter than what you would ever taste in typical vietnamese cooking.

    • It’s true that the marinade is too sweet….it’s less hot that it was a year ago when I first went to the restaurant on bufford Hway. I send some friend there once and they didn’t like the food because of the marinade. It would be better if there were more that one. We could choose.

  2. I’m very disappointed.

    I ordered the salad with the green papaya, green mango or apple and what I was served had nothing to do with that it was shredded carrot and zucchini. I was not happy. And what’s up with the red shrimp???????

  3. Judging from the picture of the “Bo La Lot”, I’d say those are grape leaves. Betel leaves are shaped like spades, not usually that big, and usually retain their vibrant dark green color when cooked properly. Grape leaves are usually canned and have an olive-y green color throughout prep and cooking.

    And coriander and cilantro are the same plant at different stages. Cilantro is the leafy plant and coriander the plant after it flowers and develops seeds. Foreigners commonly make the mistake in translating the term. What should have been in the dish is chopped cilantro, not coriander. Rau Ram (“vegetable cilantro”). There also shouldn’t have been apple. I don’t think I’ve ever seen apples used in a salad like that. The fried shallots, however, are authentic, it’s probably just a personal taste thing.

  4. Fried onions or shallots ands fried garlic are used in Vietnamese cuisine – even in Vietnam. It may see weird to us since we tend to think of fried onions and green bean casserole,but true. The first recipe in the Vietnamese cookbook that I got in Vietnam is for fried shallots that you keep in a jar for multiple uses.

    Go to the Buford Highway International Market or any Vietnamese market and you will find jars of these products imported from Vietnam. Fish sauce is often used to round out the flavors in a dish and may not take the front row seat in taste.

    • Fried onions are used in Vietnam but I found the repeated use of them at Co’m to be unsettling.  I’ve never had bo la lot or banh hoi chao tom with fried onions before … and that was my point.

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