Jfood tries Ngon Bistro - Very Good
Jfood took the advice of many and Soupkitten and The Dairy Queen in particular and wandered up to SP again for dinner at Ngon Bistro. From the outside this restaurant looks like any other corner storefront. but on the inside it is tastefully decorated in warm natural colors with numerous paintings on the walls. On a Tuesday night at 730 the place was bustling with after work groups of women, yes women, 85% of the diners were female. No commentary needed, Jfood just stating a fact. There were a couple of small tables available and the bar was empty so Jfood decided to take his book to a table.
For an appetizer Jfood decided, with some coaching, to try the Duck Confit that was Wild Acres duck with coconut curry sauce, cilantro & scallions, with toasted baguette and for an entrée, although he really wanted the duck (two ducks would have been much), he decided on the Thousand Hills Short Ribs braised in five spice with grape tomatoes, brussel sprouts & fingerling potatoes in a pork belly broth reduction.
The appetizer was a small mound of the ingredients and with one bite, Jfood was in heaven. The flavors jumped off the chop sticks. What is interesting as well is that the chef decided to add shitake mushrooms as well. This added some nice earthy flavors to an outstanding dish.
The server brought over a knife and fork and Jfood was a little confused, but then he thought maybe the short rib would come in a large piece. Nope. When the dish arrived it looked great. He first tasted the potato, very good, next a bite of a brussel sprout, it had an interesting flavor that Jfood finally figured was horseradish. Next he tried the meat with a tomato. They were also very good. Jfood thought the dish was very good, but not great.
Jfood was looking forward to the cheesecake he had heard about and when the server told him the special of the evening was chocolate chip cheesecake, he was excited. Jfood, always careful with desserts, asked if there were nuts. Unfortunately there were, so Jfood needed to move onto Plan B. He chose the Ginger Brulee. The texture was more eggy than creamy. This was pretty good, but not great.
Overall Jfood was really pleased with this quick trip up and back and he thanks the Ch’ers who suggested and in particular Soupkitten and Dairy Queen.
Inspired by jfood's review, I revisited Ngon for an early dinner on Saturday. We sat on the patio, which is pretty charming, especially in great weather like we had. It's also much quieter than I expected on busy University.
My pal and I ordered the duck confit app first. I remember this dish being transcendent on past visits, but this time it was disappointing. A lot of the duck was rubberry and it was all cooler than I would have liked it (perhaps this is due to it being served in a mound on the plate next to bread, instead of in a little bowl like I remember). The flavor was less complex than I recall, too - a little heavy on the curry, light on the cilantro, etc. And the sauce, which I remember being nice and juicy before, seemed like it had been thickened - it was a little on the gummy side, not in a good way.
I ordered the Com Tam Bi Suon Trung (broken rice with pork loin, shredded BBQ pork, pork skin, and fried egg). It was just OK. I know the broken rice dishes tend to have relatively soft and congealed rice, but even considering that, this rice was over-soft and mushy. The pork loin was nice and tender, and the flavor was OK but a little one dimensionally sweet. The shredded BBQ pork (and maybe the skin was mixed in there because I didn't see it elsewhere) had an offputting taste to it - I can't describe it exactly, maybe "livery"? The fried egg was cooked more than I'd like,so there wasn't enough gooey egg yolk to flow out onto the rice. The veggies (tomato, cucumber, and pickled carrot and daikon) were great quality for this time of year. All in all, it was "ok" but I wouldn't order it again. I order this dish at Saigon frequently and, in my book, Saigon's version is far superior - one of my favorite budget-friendly meals in St. Paul.
My pal didn't comment on her dish so I don't have anythign to post about it.
Wife and I went last night. The patio is lovely, and the service was good, but I was disappointed by the food. They were out of several of the small plates, and I wonder if they were short on ingredients, since they are taking the weekend off.
I had the pork belly, which was quite good. Crisp and tender, and gently spiced. It was accompanied by something not described on the menu, but was something like a potato salad. It lacked flavor and didn't add much to the experience.
I had the chicken pate, which was a misfire. Served on crispy slices of baguette, the pate was adorned with carrots and daikon. The flavors were incompatible, it seemed, and I couldn't taste any of the promised anise.
The real disappointment was the duck confit. I had heard so much about the complexity of flavors, but all I could taste was curry. Like diesel, I found the duck to be rubbery and too cool. I also ran into a few bones, which is usually just bad luck, but didn't add to the experience any.
Wife's veggie egg rolls were competent, but pedestrian. The highlight was her chicken bun (vermicelli salad). It seems to be that Ngon is at its best letting the quality meats shine.
Maybe I'm being too picky, but there are some great Vietnamese places in the area, who put together some really electric dishes. This fell short of that, in my view.
Have to agree with you kevin47. Went there last night with my family. Was somewhat disappointed with service and food. Had heard good reviews, so were looking forward to dining at Ngon. Our service was mediocre. Our waitress appeared to have a flat affect and just didn't seem too excited to be working.
We started with the sweet potato and shrimp croquettes, which were very good.
I had the fish (striped bass) special with couscous and vegetables. It was bland. For $20 I was expecting something a bit more appealing in flavor.
Brother in law had the scallops, which were ok, but again, served with mushy couscous and a small amount of vegetables..
Husband had the #41(Con Tam Bi-broken rice with pork loin, shredded bbq pork, pork skin, and fried egg), which in all of our opinions was by far the best entree. For $8.95, it was well worth the price.
We all ordered local MN beers, which were very tasty and always nice to see on a local retaurant's menu.
Have been to Jasmine 26 and found their food to be much better (and closer to home), so don't think we will be making another trip to Ngon again anytime soon. If we do go again, guess we will stick to more traditional Vietnamese food versus bistro/french entrees.
I love Ngon. It is a must do
every time I am in MSP. I went
there last week and had the rabbit
appetizer and bbq pork salad. My
friend had the duck Pho. The only
downside. No soup is served on the
patio. The waitress said they were
working out those details and should
have it resolved shortly.
After walking into a closed Bangkok Thai Deli and staring at the dark interior of Strip Club, jfood returned to Ngon, and remembering some of the sage advice on this thread.
He ordered the Phở Đặc Biệt (Thập Cẩm) Rice noodle with Thousand Hills 100% grass fed beef brisket, lean beef, homemade beef ball, & flank plus the Wild Acres Farms Duck Breast Wild Acres duck breast with a sweet potatoe puree, spicy brussel sprouts, pork belly, & shiitake mushroom curry sauce.
The Pho was outstanding. The first thing jfood did was to swirl the basil from the extra =plate through the broth. This gave a beautiful basil background to the deep rich stock. The beef was tender and delicious. A great Pho.
The duck arrived as jfood received a call that he needed to get on a conference call in 30 minutes. Oh crap. He had to race through the dish and then bolt. The duck had a nice pepper crust, but was a tad overcooked (the server approach jfood earlier and asked if he wanted medium rare - yes), the sweet potato puree was about as good as it gets and then when you added the crunch of the pork belly it was heaven. Jfood was not thrilled with the brussel sprouts. The new tendency is to serve brussel sprouts almost raw and jfood likes his more cooked.
Overall this was a great meal.
Thanks again MSP Hounds.
Oh, darn - sorry, Jfood! I took the afternoon off from my computer yesterday, or else I would have weighed in with my cautionary two cents: I think the short ribs are good but not great.
Last time I was there, I had the short ribs and wasn't wowed. They're nice and all - good quality meat - but there wasn't much else going on. On the other hand, my husband's Elk Medallions were amazing (and best, the anise cream wasn't too anise-y for the spice-averse Mr. Tastebud).
I'm glad you had the confit - it's one of the Ten Best Appetizers in the Twin Cities, as far as I'm concerned.
P.S. Plunging into our construction-clogged rush-hour traffic in search of good chow is very, very brave. I'm impressed with your bravery and valor!
Hey, I'm relieved you had a better dinner than last night! I'm sorry the cheesecake didn't work out for you, but, maybe on your next visit they'll have a version without nuts. I'm glad you tried the duck confit--that's one of my favs! The ginger creme brulee is one of my favs, too, though I can see why you thought the texture was too eggy. I actually like it that way, but I hadn't really thought (until now) that the texture might not be universally appealing, especially if you were expecting something more delicate. So, sorry to have steered you a little off-course there.
I'm telling you, you could make a meal just of their apps.
If you still want beef pho, you could head up the road a little ways to Saigon (also on University Ave, nearish to Dale) on your next visit. Completely different experience than Ngon Bistro, but still great food. You might have to bring cash, though, as they continue to struggle getting their credit card machine to work.