Named for the Vietnamese word for “delicious”, Ngon Restaurant has set high expectations. Despite his reservations about Vietnamese food, Seth Emmanuel Rinoza puts the restaurant to the taste test. Photography by Conor Wall.
More accustomed to eating Western food, I’ll admit that I never really have had a liking for traditional Asian noodles. So, as a first-timer to Vietnamese cuisine, I wasn’t sure what to expect at Ngon.
As I approached the restaurant, two female receptionists dressed in white traditional Vietnamese costume came to greet me. Beautifully surrounded by frangipani trees, the outdoor area is very easy on the eyes. Dark furniture placed under white umbrellas line the aisles of the restaurant.
My dining partner and I picked seats that commanded a view of the whole restaurant and its customers, who were mostly businesspeople and families having lunch. We were immediately served with cold water and a menu.
It took me longer than usual to decide on my food choices; the menu is just too diverse, consisting of variations of fried noodles, vermicelli soups, salads, stir-fried dishes, hotpots and more. The dish prices, which ranged from US$2.50 to US$5, made it even harder to choose because we had the luxury of ordering anything from the menu.
My partner ended up choosing vermicelli with grilled pork and spring rolls (R10,500) and steamed shrimps in coconut juice (R25,000). I ordered thick noodle in soup with beef and meatballs (R10,000), as recommended by the friendly waiter, as well as the stir-fried cassava vermicelli with crabmeat (R16,000).
Within ten minutes, our first two dishes arrived. We started by sampling the vermicelli with grilled pork and spring rolls, and found it very satisfying. The grilled pork was perfectly cooked, and the spring rolls were fantastic. On the other hand, the second dish of steamed shrimps was a little too plain for my taste. The description of being served in coconut juice was a little disappointing, as I couldn’t really taste any coconut flavour—in fact, the dish was pretty much like all the steamed shrimps I’ve ever eaten before.
By the time our second set of dishes arrived another ten minutes later, I was feeling how hot it had become sitting outside. Unfortunately, there were no fans to cool us down. Despite the appealing setting, the outside dining can become an uncomfortable choice for lunchtime dining.
The ever-friendly staff served the noodle soup with beef and meatballs along with vegetables and sauces, while the vermicelli with crabmeat came in a traditional clay pot. The aroma coming from the thick noodle soup was heavenly. As I took a few sips from the soup, I confirmed that the dish was nothing but bliss. It was perfectly cooked with a variation of spices, and the meatballs in it were divine as well. Both my partner and I agreed that it was our favourite dish of the meal.
Last but not the least, I sampled the vermicelli noodles, which was found to be a little too dry for my taste, but then again, noodles aren’t really my thing. Although Ngon may not serve my favourite Western dishes, the restaurant provided a predominantly pleasant experience. I will come back to try more dishes and expand my dining horizons in the future.