Ever so slowly, Madame Ong has built up a steady following. Despite being tucked away down a soi, past a parking lot and the lobby of VP Tower, the place is busy even on weeknights with families and friends getting together for some fresh, healthy Vietnamese food.
The elderly Madame Ong (who you’ll spot dining at her own restaurant on many a night) can’t compete with top players like Le Dalat
or Vietnamese & More
. For one, her restaurant has the charm of a basement food court: neon lighting, formica tables (many of which can host a dozen dinners) and white floor tiles.
In the plate, there just isn’t that wondrous blend of flavors and texture Vietnamese food can sometimes achieve: the nam nueng is bland (and served cold, as opposed to freshly grilled), the rice sheets are rubbery instead of paper-like, the chao tom (grilled shrimp paste on a sugarcane, B90) is deep-fried and battered in a thick layer of breadcrumbs as opposed to lightly grilled.
But the kitchen still manages to capture the spirit of Vietnamese food: a host of super fresh herbs, diced vegetables and unripe fruits, sauces that pack a kick, and cooking that uses hardly any oil. The result is a meal that is bursting with flavor despite being light and healthy. Everyone’s fave here seems to be the ban bai (B180), nine little rice pancakes artfully topped with slivers of marinated barbecued pork, herbs, chili and crispy pork skin. You’ll probably want to order a Vietnamese fondue, too, which combines shrimp, fish, and squid into an umami-packed broth (B220).
The aforementioned nam nueng (B120/220, 6/9 pieces) isn’t that great, but combined with all the sauces and trimmings—from green banana to cucumber and garlic—it’s still pleasing enough. Similarly, the marinated pork in cha-plu leaves (B90) feels as sad and dry as it looks but tastes OK—the herbal kick and sauce come to the rescue once again.
We’ve been here many times, we really like the place—and it’s cheap!—but once you’ve left the neighborhood, Madame Ong is definitely not reason alone to visit Soi Rangnam.
This review took place in May 2018 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.