February and Saturdays are good for warm lunches with loved ones. My passion for such led me to Ngon Vietnamese Bistro on Saturday with my husband, gerg.
We had read some decent reviews of Ngon, and I was dreaming about a big bowl of pho.
We were so pleased when we arrived and were seated in a brightly lit, clean, sunshiney dining room. They were about 1/3 full, and we were seated promptly. I'm not sure how well the atmosphere would translate into romantic evening dining, but it was great for lunch.
Ngon Vietnamese Bistro has the passion and commitment I've come to appreciate in a restaurant. They are committed to using fresh, local ingredients, and they take it a step farther by offering sustainably-raised meats, which is valuable to me.
We each ordered our own pot of fresh brewed Jasmine tea to start, but they do offer organic and sustainable wines, and local beers.
We opened our lunch with an order of the Chả Giò: these are fried egg rolls with stuffed with all natural Fischer Farm pork and glass noodles, and topped with pickled carrot and daikon.
They were seasoned well, and meat was tender. Overall, they definitely ranked more adequately in fried egg roll proficiency than most I've come across, especially at $5.
I'm always pleased when I can order beef at a restaurant. I usually avoid beef entrees because I prefer local, humanely raised, grass fed beef. I've come to appreciate and patronize restaurants that offer that kind of beef on their menu. Thus, I set my site for the pho (pronounced "fuh"), which I had read about on various blogs and review sites. Ngon offers 6 varieties of pho, one with chicken and one with seafood.
Phở Bò Viên: this version of their rice noodle soup is made with homemade meatballs using all natural 100% grass fed beef, and topped with green onion . The meatballs were tender. The subtle, savory broth was not overly salted and was prepared with oxtail from all natural grass fed cattle. The pho was served with a generous portion of fresh ingredients on the side, which you add as desired:
Per tradition, this plate of fresh Asian basil leaves, bean sprouts, chilies, and lime wedges were served on a separate plate with the pho; you add them by and by, as you consume the soup - chopsticks in one hand, spoon in the other. I also added a touch of chili sauce to mine. The oxtail broth steamed with the aroma of beef, ginger, green onions, and cilantro. As I added the fresh basil and squeezed the lime into the bowl, I was pleased with the freshness of the ingredients. All of this was served up for $8.95. Apparently, I ceased talking to gerg at some point, spellbound by my pho.
Gerg ordered the Bánh mì: a vietnamese pork sandwich, traditionally served in pho shops.
Ngon's pork sandwich is grilled Duroc natural pork loin on a baguette topped with pickled vegetables and cilantro, and plated with house cut sweet potato fries. I've heard Duroc referred to as a "grill’s best friend" and that certainly helped this sandwich. The juicy, rich grilled meat was topped with crispy sliced pickled carrots, daikon, cilantro and some onion. The spicy aioli served on the side was surprisingly traditional as well. Does the whole thing seem a little French to you? Me too. Apparently, the whole concept of this sandwich is a product of French colonialism in Indochina - thus baguettes and mayonnaise are paired with native Vietnamese ingredients like pickled vegetables and cilantro for $8.50.
Vegetarians will note the section of vegetarian entrees on the menu, including their Hù Tiếu Chay: rice noodles, fresh shitaki mushrooms, daikon, carrots, bok choy and green beans in vegetable broth.
We liked our lunch, and will be back again. I'm still eager to try the Vietnamese crepe, the beef brisket pho, the Vietnamese coffee cake, and, OF COURSE, the crispy rabbit dumplings.
Get your pho on!
Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
799 University Ave
St. Paul, MN
[where: Ngon Vietnamese Bistro, Sustainable Food, St. Paul, Twin Cities, Minnesota]