It’s been over 13 months since the Ngon fiasco that left me (and others) with a such bad taste in my mouth that I have never gone back. I still think of it as my worst dining experience in Cambodia.
However, it is one of the most read posts on our blog and we still get comments regarding the service. Many people have commented to me that I should give Ngon another chance (one actually told me to lower my expectations as “this is Cambodia”).
So with much trepidation, I went to Ngon.
And what I got was a mixed bag.
We went off to the new location which is located An Phu in District 2 which has become a haven for expatriates and well to do Vietnamese. You can definitely see the development in the clean streets and the very suburban feel to several of the compounds located in the area.
The new Ngon is one of four restaurants in the Thao Dien Village which is located on a very picturesque riverbank located on the northern eastern part of the peninsula. We went for lunch and were lucky to grab a great spot right next to the river. The menu is a bit more expensive than the one in District 1 but with the mainly seafood options and the picturesque location, I had to give them a bit of leeway in terms of pricing.
We decided to order in a non-Nyam fashion and only order 3 dishes. We got a papaya salad with beef, Banh Xeo with seafood (no shrimps please) and deep fried squid. The first dish to arrive was the papaya salad.
Served in a hollowed out papaya, the flavors of the salad were fresh and light and a perfect start to the meal. There was an ample amount of sliced rare beef to give the dish a bit of heft and it was topped with peanuts and deep fried shallots gave the salad a nice crunchy texture. Up next was the fried calamari.
They looked great when they were dropped off but then the cheap side of my brain kicked in and went “Holy crap, this dish was 180,000 dong??? Dude, that’s like a dollar a ring!“
Usually I dress any deep fried calamari with a dose of lime/lemon and dip them in the accompanied sauce. But I decided that these had better be the best deep fried calamari on Earth for that asking price and popped one in my mouth ungarnished and unsauced.
It was good but it wasn’t mind-blowingly great. I asked for some lime and tried it again garnished and sauced. Heaps better but still not worth the price. In the end, I waited for special moments like when a boat was passing by to have another ring so I could appreciate the price of the dish a bit more.
The last dish to arrive was the banh xeo which was pretty tasty and very filling.
One ingredient that I have not ever seen in Banh Xeo was the addition of mushrooms which gave the dish an earthy taste which cut the taste of the large amounts of onions in the dish.
The meal came to just under $40 USD and even though the location is great and I left full, I couldn’t stop thinking about that damn calamari.
Thao Dien Village
195 Nguyen Van Huong St.,
Thao Dien Ward, Disctrict 2, HCMC