Ngon Restaurant

Ngon is a restaurant that I have been obsessing over for the past month or so. I have been to both locations in Vietnam and am wholly impressed with them both. Which led me to organize a party of 12 anonymous reviewers on opening night to sample as much of the menu as possible. This was probably my first mistake to review a brand new restaurant on opening night. But lets get to that later.

The atmosphere of Ngon is fantastic. The setting is reminiscent of the imperial Vietnam of old with a hutong inspired entrance which leads to a open floor plan dotted with food stations on the sides of the building.The menu is 70% Vietnamese and 30% Khmer with very reasonable prices (most items at 9,000 Riel). After getting everyone in and with a beer in hand, we ordered 10 dishes to share.

Unfortunately, Ngon hasn’t worked out the kinks of running such a large operation and it took a half hour for us to get our first dish. After several inquiries and direct intervention by the GM, we managed to get three other dishes in a timely manner. We were also told that 6 of the ordered items were out and we had to reorder another dish (Ga Chien or fried chicken wings) to get some more food in our stomachs.

In the end, we received the Banh Xeo, Goi Bo Tai Chanh, Bo Nhung Dam, Banh Hoi Thit and Ga Chien. All the dishes were great with the Banh Hoi Thit being my favorite. The fat on the pork belly had a great crust which gave a crunchy texture to a normally chewy piece of meat. The Bo Nhung Dam had ample amounts of onion which once stewed a few minutes in the vinegar broth were heavenly.

During the meal, I  walked by the order station which is located very close to the toilets. I stood by and watched over half the waiters in the restaurant relaying orders to two employees at computer terminals. As a former waiter, I could see this was disastrous. Total mayhem was erupting right before my eyes and I felt a little pity for the waiters. I hope that the management work this situation out, if for the sanity of the wait staff.  In all honesty, this review could have waited a month to give Ngon a chance to work out the kinks so there will be another follow up in the future.

— VinhThe food we did receive was overall pretty great but it was hard to enjoy the experience when it was clear that the management of the restaurant was not yet in order.  From taking over an hour to get our first drink to the blank stares of the staff when we ordered, they were clearly overwhelmed with this new restaurant.  Vinh even broke out his Vietnamese language skills a few times which helped discussing our orders with the management but not so much with the Khmer staff that was actually bringing the food.

Banh Xeo

But it was opening night.  The idea of the restaurant is great, the building, the furniture and fixtures are absolutely beautiful and the food was pretty solid.  Once they work out the kinks in the service, this place will be really great.  The banh xeo was really tasty and crispy and the bo nhung dam was amazing.  The only other time I’ve had bun nhung dam was my first night in Saigon at a street stall with a group of friends so I have very fond memories associated with this dish.  It will probably be a while until I head back and it will probably be with a slightly smaller group but I’m really hoping they get this place sorted.  — Bryse

Bo Nhung Dam

After tallying the votes of the group, the Goi Bo Tai Chanh was the favorite of the crew, garnishing a 4.6 out of a possible 5 nyamies.
Banh Hoi Thit – 3.75 Nyamies
Banh Xeo – 3..5 Nyamies
Ga Chien – 3.6 Nyamies
Bo Nhung Dam – 3.55 Nyamies
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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Ngon Restaurant

  1. Restaurant looks very regal. Great photos Vinh.

  2. Not one to poo poo a joint

    As someone who may or may not have been among the large party of anonymous eaters mentioned in the review, I feel a bit compeled to expand on the reviewers analysis. I honestly never do this, but here goes:

    First off, the place is gorgeous. The open air seating and the champey trees really make for a lovley setting, not to mention the location, which I am sure any number of PP eateries would kill for. I too was excited seeing all of the action stations and smelling all of the wonderful aromas. The place was packed as well; normally a great sign. But….as the reviewer mentioned it was also opening night. And if this were a broadway musical, the critics would have had a field day.

    Half an hour until even one dish (Banh Xeo, and I do mean ONE dish, we ordered a couple more that arrived even later) emmerged and that was snapped up before most of us were able to taste it. As the minutes dragged by and I continuously tried to re-order our very pregnant fellow diners’ shake (which mercifully came after an hour or so), we got some Goi Bo Tai Chanh which was OK, save for the plethora of very assertive onions inside of it. Finally one of the two Bo Nhung Dams arrived, which I had been very much looking forward to as it is one of my very favorite Vietnamese dishes. It came with about 5 peices of rice paper and a small plate of veggies, not exactly enough for 12 people. OK, fine, I thought, it must be the normal portion size. And the insect eaten, brown, wilted leaves that accompanied it must be standard operating procedure as well??? Aht jo jett.
    The Banh Hoi Thit was a bit better, though the pork was a bit on the hard side (and I don’t mean delightfully crispy), but still, it was decent. The chicken wings? Well they came with staggering quickness, which was not too shocking; as it seemed that they had been sitting around for some time.
    But here is the real rub: as the reviewer mentioned they were “out” of 6 of the 10 dishes we ordered, but we were not imformed about this rather important detail until AFTER WE HAD ALREADY BEEN WAITING FOR 2 HOURS! In addition, I noticed some of the dishes that we had ordered that they were after the fact “out” of somehow magically made their way to other smaller tables that had come after we had. Hmmm….Interesting…
    Look, I know this comes off as rather harsh. It was the opening night, and opening nights always carry their share of hiccups and problems. But waiting 2 hours for your food and then being told they don’t have any? Not what I would expect from a restaruant with two pre-existing thriving locations. What’s the problem with letting us know a bit sooner, so we are able to order something different (which we would have with no fuss form our side)? The GM did seem to “intervene” momentarily, then proceeded to sit at a table not so far from our own for some of her own dinner and drinks with some friends. She seemed to get plenty of food. Maybe she knows the chef 😉
    Sorry to say, but I will not be going back to Ngon anytime soon. Not after I spent 14$ and had to go get a burger after cause I was still hungry (those Tigers aint cheap I reckon!).

  3. Virginie

    I have to post a comment also and this restaurant: We went there last week for a much expected dinner on valentine’s night…and we ended up eating a piece of bread at home!

    We reserved a special table for 8:30 pm. First we arrived right on time and we see our table already given to another couple. Fine, we are not one to make a fuss just about a table on a lovely couple’s evening.

    After waiting about 10 mn for another table to be ready, we get seated and wait another 20 mn to be able to order a cocktail while we would order the food and wait for it. Too ambitous of a plan for such a place! After bringing the cocktails -not even knowing which is which-, it is almost 9:00 pm and we order three dishes to share. None of them will ever come to our table as the waiter tell us the food is out, and all the kitchens – 16 of them! – are closed. Yes, they close at 9pm!?! We could only order the fancy expensive dishes from the main kitchen, but of course we refused, too upset to stay.

    Why on earth would they take a booking for 8:30pm if they will be out of food and kitchen before you can even say hi!! This is crazy. No matter how beautiful the place look, we will not go back to this place. The owners have two others restaurants in Vietnam, they should know better how to run a restaurant. What a valentine’s night.

    • Hi Virginie,

      I am sorry to hear about your bad experience. On Valentines Day no less!
      All the feedback I have heard so far has been terrible in terms of service. My wife has a khmer colleague who ate there two weeks ago and she said that Ngon needs a bit of help so it isn’t just the expats that are getting a bad experience there.
      I don’t know how this could have gone so wrong for them considering the restaurants in Vietnam are extremely successful and a hit with foreigners and locals alike.
      If you want to try a different Vietnamese place, we have just reviewed the Vietnamese restaurant on the corner of Monivong and street 242. The ambiance isn’t as good as Ngon but the food and the service is great. Here is the review:
      https://nyampenh.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/loud-vietnamese/

      Vinh

      • Virginie

        Hello again Vinh,
        No, i am sure not only expats have pbs witht he restaurant. It really seems to be a lack of strong organized management. It is a shame though for such a lovely decorated place. (wondering if they have improved in the last two months?!)
        Anyway, I have a lot of other places to try out with my hubby: all the ones you are writing about! 😉
        Thanks and regards,
        V.

  4. evie

    I also have to comment on this restaurant. What i can’t understand is how someone can spend so much money on setting a place up – it is absolutely stunning to look at – and clearly not spend a penny on training staff before opening. We have been three times since it opened – i deliberately gave it a month before our first visit so they could iron out the usual opening problems. I think i gave it three shots thinking it would have to eventually get better…..nope! On the first visit, after ordering and waiting 25 minutes (waiting time not a problem) we were told – sorry, no rice left! After the initial shock at a vietnamese restaurant running out of rice, we carefully re-ordered dishes that did not have rice. Another 15 minutes later – sorry – no food left! When we complained to the manager (who obviously was not that senior), he was almost crying with stress and embarrassment, saying he knew the service was very bad. I must say though, that on our visits, the couple of dishes that actually did make it to the table were really quite delicious. What a shame; this place could be so good!

    • Sorry for the late reply. This must have slipped under the radar.

      I was in a Vietnamese restaurant in London that didn’t have any baguettes which shocked me a bit and my wife had to restrain me in complaining about how a Vietnamese place didn’t have a baguette option for bo kho.

      But no rice? That seriously takes the cake for absurd.

      • Virginie

        ahahah, yes, this must be the only asian restaurant in the whole word which is out of rice! You can only laugh. Though, how pathetic!

  5. I have been to beautiful Ngon 4 times and each seems to be the same.
    The course of events unfolds as follows

    1. They are generally out of the first thing you want to eat so you panic and point at a picture hoping for the best.
    2. The wait time for food is sometimes ridiculous which leads to #3
    3. You stare around and admire just how damned beautiful the place is and think “I want to want to be here!”
    4. the food comes at different times (understandable with different kitchens) and its decent…not great, decent.
    *5. Depends on the day of the week and how busy the place is but the last time I went they informed us that they were closing (in over an hour) and we had to order quickly. The first few choices were shot down by the waiter and what we eventually got was bottom of the barrel. A “sorry, I’m going home and don’t want to cook right now” sort of meal for each one of us. Bland remnants of what was and what could have been…

    Sure is beautiful though, I’m sure I’ll be back there within a month.

    • Adam,

      Thanks for the great comment. It sounds like you are a glutton for punishment if you keep going back to the place! I haven’t been back since the original post and when I feel it’s time to go back, another comment like this turns up.

      Have you tried Magnolia or Loud Vietnamese? Magnolia is set in a beautiful villa and their menu is impressive. The only irritation is that there isn’t any Bun Cha Hanoi on the menu but in all honesty, it isn’t available at Ngon either!

      Vinh

  6. Pingback: Time to give Ngon another chance | Nyam Penh

  7. To be fair (to me), I only chose Ngon once. The other visits were familial obligation and the gravitational pull of friendship. I just read the Ngon -Vietnam review and it seems – beautiful. Thanks for the recommendations! Pork ribs at Loud Viet. are calling to me.

    P.S.
    Love the new search bar!

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