Pho at Ngon
Not wanting to roll the dice with the moodiness of Saigon's front door, the lady and I went to Ngon for their pho last night. My past experiences have always been more along the lines of relishing the idea (of their meat and veg sourcing) more than the execution, but this was my first go at the pho. Pretty wonderful.
While I enjoy Pho Tau Bay's particular tendon inclusion to be dream-inducing, Ngon's version was enough to keep me on this side of the river, tendon or no (though, to note, the tendon at Tau Bay is a beefy scallop of sumptuousness whose deliciousness may (or not) overshadow the distant bleats one may hear from the factory slaughterhouse floor, whence this tendon came).
A follow-up: has anyone enjoyed Ngon's upper-scale entree offerings? They always sound great, but it doesn't seem to fit within the rubric of what they are, currently, as a restaurant. Or maybe I've just never been in a spendy mood when there.
Pho Tau Bay
2837 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408
Actually, those upscale entrees are actually really good.
What the chef is trying to do is show an old and new approach to Vietnamese cooking. The influence of France on Vietnam culture is very strong. So he's taking traditional Vietnamese ingredients and cooking them thru the prism of French technique. I think he does so as well as any restaurant in this town. You have the classic dishes of the country along with the dishes and ideas driven by outsiders/occupiers. I think it creates a really good prism to understanding the history and culture that exists.
Give them a try. I'm confident you'll be impressed. But I may be biased because I think Ngon deserves to be mentioned along the lines of Meritage and Heartland as the best restaurant in town.
410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102
i love the meatball pho at ngon. the chef's father comes in and makes the meatballs very traditionally by hand.
i like the dinner mains as well. i am especially a fan of ngon's take on confiture, using coconut milk as the fat. this used to be an app, then it was off the menu, not sure about it now or if it is seasonal or what. i have a great deal of empathy for what the chef-owner of ngon is trying to do-- his whole family runs traditional vietnamese pho-houses, and he wants to be true to that tradition, but not be stuck there-- as someone raised in this country he wants to bring other things to the table, so to speak. i think the (for lack of a better, less loaded term) fusion approach he takes very much enriches the local dining scene.
A few questions for you, soupkitten, out of curiousity.
Do you know if the chef's family operates pho-houses here? Or elsewhere in the country or abroad?
What is in the confiture? I haven't noticed it on the menu and I'm intrigued! Is it an appetizer?
And what are the meatballs like? Variety of meats? Spicy?
I love Ngon and think I need to stray from my tried and true things on the menu and branch out into some of these other things.
Ngon is part of the family that owns Caravelle (his parents) his aunt owns Pho 79 (Uptown), and I believe is other aunt owned Pho Ahn which was what Ngon was converted from. I also thought is brother owned Senor Wong's in downtown st. paul. Things could have changed since I last spoke with the Chef... but.
sorry i missed this question! to add to the other responses: the confit was chicken with coconut milk. it was on the app menu.... maybe seasonal, but fantastic. hope it comes back.
the meatball pho is not spicy-hot unless the diner doctors the broth up to be so. ngon's pho broth is in my recollection more dark-spice heavy (like star anise, etc) than quang/pho tau bay. the meatballs are very fine texture and fluffy, flavorful throughout-- the opposite of quang's meatballs (which i do not like). but it is a pretty traditional pho, just that the meatballs and broth spicing set it apart, for me. i like the meatball pho at lunch time, and in winter, and to try out stuff on the dinner menu when i can get there at the right time (i admit , it's been too long).
I like their Bun and their entrees are delicious; went on NYE early no reserv. GREAT. Two pepper steaks were enjoyed with their wasabi potatoes. I'd like to try the Ox tail soup. I know the pho a friend got was not insanely complex, but good nonetheless. They also have great beer and wine. Consistently a good night out.
One of my Top Meals of 2011 was from their "upscale" side of the menu late last fall. These choices are always good, and when they click, they're stellar. Take a risk someday when you're in a non-pho mood; you'll be glad you did!
(I still remember my meal - mussels in a spicy coconut curry with sweet potato frites, fish with a wild-rice coating, and some lovely lovely beer.)