Tuesday, May 12, 2009
For a relatively non-descript place in a strip shopping center, Dong Nai was a pleasant surprise. It's in a shared building in the parking lot across from the Target at Ben White & Lamar; I think you have to be looking for it to really notice it. I met friends there for dinner a bit past 7 pm on Saturday night. There were 2 other tables with customers, not the greatest sign, but both of my dinner companions have been eating there recently and assured me the food was worthy. Dong Nai has both Vietnamese and Chinese foods, and while I haven't yet tried their Chinese offerings, I would venture to guess that it's the Vietnamese foods that are the standout ones.
We ordered the Vietnamese egg rolls as an app (#3C on the menu). It's ground pork with some cabbage, deep fried, and served with lettuce leaves, cucumber slices, and a tangy sweet & sour fish sauce with shredded carrots. You wrap the lettuce around the egg roll, add sauce, and eat. It's rather messy, but it was tasty. Wish the sauce had a little more contrast to it, and a little bit of sriracha always helps. For my main dish, I ordered #2D, the vermicelli noodle bowl with char grilled pork. My friends each ordered different beef pho bowls. The portions are large! The pork on mine was incredibly tasty, great flavor to it, though it had more bbq sauce on it than I am accustomed to seeing with grilled pork dishes. The bowl had cucumber strips, bean sprouts, and a huge nest of vermicelli noodles. The broth on the pho was divine. As soon as it arrived at the table, you could smell the star anise in it. It is one of the best smelling and tasting pho's I've ever had.
The place is also very inexpensive. All of the main dishes were about $6 each. The service was friendly and prompt. There were various people coming in and out of the kitchen, including a couple of kids. The family was sitting and eating, as it wasn't real busy. The waitress chatted with us for a few, the family is Vietnamese, and I think she said she was from Saigon, but has also lived in China. Definitely worth a trip back to Dong Nai for pork and pho.