A Whole Lotta Ngon-sense
We've been looking forward to Ngon Kitchen opening for quite some time, hoping to have a new go-to spot for authentic Vietnamese cuisine. We decided to pop in for a quick lunch one weekend and were impressed with the build-out. There were fresh orchids everywhere, an expensive touch that provided a zen-like atmosphere. We quickly realized they didn't have their TABC license yet. No big deal - we can pop next door to buy beer and bring it over for a BYOB lunch, right? Wrong. The hostess informed us they do not allow BYOB, even though it is perfectly legal before you get your beer / wine license. We didn't want to seem rude, so we went ahead with being seated.
The only option for beverages was cucumber infused water, served in a plastic cup with a lid. Cameron wasn't a huge fan of the taste (which was somewhat metallic), and it was a pain to take off the lid/straw every time we needed a refill (not to mention a huge eco-waste). The wait staff was nice and fairly attentive, but no one made any menu recommendations or really tried to sell anything. That was surprising, since they just opened and really need to get people bought in to the concept if they're going to make it on Lower Greenville. We explored the menu on our own via mobile device. It was a bit complicated, as each section of the menu was a different web link, rather than having the full menu as one document.
We wanted a lighter lunch, so we opted for the Nuoc Mam Wings and the Grilled Beef salad to share. The wings come 5 to an order and were a pretty decent size. They weren't the best, and they weren't the worst. We thought they were just "meh" and could've used more flavor - salt, spice, anything. The garlic was largely undetectable and the fish sauce seemed to be drizzled over as-is instead of being truly caramelized. And, even with a generous portion of the fish sauce literally poured on top, they were somewhat dry.
On to the salad. Again, we were largely unimpressed with the creativity and flavor of this dish. I suppose it's our fault on this one - it was exactly as the menu described: spring mix, tomatoes, cilantro, kaffir lime (we didn't pick up on it), and steak, drizzled with copious amounts of fish sauce that pooled in the bottom of the bowl. The steak, while tender, wasn't seasoned very much at all, and it really needed some acid. Instead of just fish sauce, it would have been much better with a true Vietnamese-style dressing. The salad could've also used a wider variety of vegetables, such as bell pepper, cucumber, or carrots. What could have been excellent ended up being sub-par and boring.
We planned to get a noodle dish or two when we sat down, but were frankly so disappointed with the food we had eaten so far, we decided to forego any additional food and grab a beer at The Old Crow instead (recently reopened, by the way).
Overall, we just weren't impressed at all with Ngon. Perhaps we'll give it another try for dinner once they get their TABC license, but it really isn't on our list of go-to places right now. If you do decide to go, take note of their hours: they're only open until 8:30 Sunday-Thursday and 9:30 Friday/Saturday.