The place was pretty rowdy back in 2004. We named it Loud Vietnamese due to the ear-splitting techno music that thumped in the joint. The first time I was there, I saw a very drunk teenager in her school uniform carried down the steps by her friends. All I could think at the time was this place ought to be interesting.
The patronage at that time was a bit sketchy, you had to yell to keep up conversation and stupidly cheap beers with ice were the norm. The menu wasn’t as diverse as it is now but they had a great chao tom (grilled ground shrimp wrapped around a stick of sugarcane) for 3,000 Riel which made for a handy snack after a night of boozing.
Around 2007, the place was remodeled and looks pretty much like it does now. They got rid of the loud techno which drove the kids away but made conversation a bit easier. They also revamped the menu and now offer some very tasty dishes.
Enough history. Lets live in the now and get to the food!
First to come up was the Thit Neung Heo (Grilled Pork Ribs $3.50). Having a nice char from the grill, the ribs were exquisitely balanced between sweet and salty and made for a great start to the meal.
Thit Neung Heo or Grilled Pork Ribs
Ten minutes after we received our first dish, we started getting the orders on top of each other. The Banh Xeo (vietnamese pancake $2.00), Muc Chien Ngon (fried crispy squid $4.50) and Goi Bo Tai Chanh (rare beef lime salad $5.00) came next. The Banh Xeo was chock full of ground pork, shrimp, julienned carrots and sliced onions.
Goi Bo Tai Chanh is always favorite with me. This version is filled with rau ram (vietnamese coriander), basil, mint, sliced onions and tossed in a sweet lime sauce. A bonus was the addition of fried shallots and peanuts for garnish. The Muc Chien Ngon was nice but I felt that the breading that they used was to too heavy and overpowered the delicate taste of the squid.
Goi Bo Tai Chanh or Rare Beef Lime Salad
During this time, the Bo Nhung Dam (thin sliced beef boiled in vinegar $6.50) was delivered to the table but placed on the side. The very attentive staff waited until we finished a couple of plates before setting it up which was very thoughtful of them. A Vietnamese take on Shabu Shabu, the raw beef is placed in the vinegar broth and the accompanying sides are used to garnish. Here, the sides were some dry banh trang (rice paper sheets), a bowl with some water to dip the banh trang in, a few cups of nuoc cham (dipping sauce), rice noodles, various herbs and lettuce.
Bo Nhung Dam and its fixings
The last dish we received was the Mi Xao Chay (fried vegetarian noodles $3.00). I was shocked to see ramen noodles were used instead of the usual noodles I’m used to. To my surprise, the noodles weren’t too bad! It didn’t hurt that the vegetables were fresh and nicely seasoned.
All in all, a great trip down memory lane.
Oh yeah, almost forgot. Anchor cans are $ 0.80. — Vinh
Mi Xao Chay or Fried Vegetarian Noodles
I am by no means an expert on Vietnamese food, but I am an enthusiast. As such, I was delighted to try this place as my initiation into the Nyam Penh scene. Executive summary is that this is the best Vietnamese food I’ve had so far in Phnom Penh, or at least tied with the restaurant downstairs (which may or may not be owned by the same people). Beef in vinegar is my go-to dish in Vietnamese restaurants and this one did not disappoint. Because it was my first time meeting the gang I decided not to drink the broth, but I easily could have. The combination of vinegar and lemongrass is fantastic, and I appreciated that they went heavy on the lemongrass–it wasn’t too much for me. I also thought the rare beef salad was excellent, and I ate more than my fair share of it.
Muc Chien Ngon and Banh Xeo
I was least excited by the noodle dish that was a packet of ramen noodles and some vegetables. I’m no elitist about packaged ramen–in fact, I’m a die-hard fan. But I’m rarely thrilled to get it served up to me in a restaurant and this time was no different. Overall, I was very pleased with this restaurant. For some reason I had thought that the upstairs was a pho-only place and had always eaten in the much less pleasant restaurant downstairs. But with open-air seating bedecked in plastic foliage and $0.80 beers, this place is a winner for me. — Lina
As soon as we walked into this place, I liked it. It reminded me of places I had been while visiting Hanoi. Ngon was absolutely beautiful but I never ate anywhere like that in Vietnam. Loud colors, plastic plants and flashing lights felt much more authentic.
The ribs that came out first were amazing. Maybe it was because we had had a few beers before dinner but, wow, I would have been happy eating just ribs that night. There is a huge ‘Banh Xeo’ sign painted on the outside of the restaurant so I wanted to try it thinking it might be their specialty. It wasn’t the most amazing tasting banh xeo I’ve had but it was probably the biggest. All five of us at the table were able to have a decent portion.
Dunking some beef in the vinegar broth
The Muc Chien Ngon, aka, Vietnamese calamari, was good but you can pretty much deep fry anything and it will be pretty good. But the highlight for me was definitely the Bo Nhung Dam. They let the pot filled with the vinegar broth and onions simmer on our table for a while before they moved it over to the middle of the table. Any sort of hot pot dinner is always the best group meal but would have been slightly nicer if we were at a round table (John had to reach pretty far to get to the pot). Again, Vietmart was generous with the portions and we all had plenty and with beers for less than a buck, this place is definitely solid.
4.5 nyamies out of 5. Vinh
4 out of 5 nyamies Lina (check out Lina’s blog here)
4.0 out of 5 nyamies Bryse
On the corner of Monivong and street 242 across the street from the 24 hour BB World.