The classic beef soup pho bo is one of the house specialties at Quan Nem Ngon Vietnamese Bistro in Madison Heights. (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)
Among the many Asian restaurants tucked into storefronts along Dequindre Road in Madison Heights, Quan Nem Ngon Vietnamese Bistro does not quite fit the profile.
It offers something more: a well-designed setting done up with appropriate artwork under a cluster of glittery overhead lights, and a menu that offers meticulously prepared Vietnamese fare served on big white plates with all the niceties of an upscale restaurant.
Silver metal chopsticks and a big spoon wrapped in a turquoise napkin are atop matching place mats on each of the tables, ready to be dipped into the big bowls of pho bo, the classic beef noodle soup, or the noodle salads that are among house specialties. No need to thumb through pages and pages. The editing has been done by the proprietors, making ordering simpler and more satisfying even for those not as familiar with Vietnamese food as they might be with Thai or Chinese.
The husband-wife team of Vinh and Tien Nguyen put together all elements in the spacious room, with one padded banquette stretching the length of one wall and on the other, some of the food preparation visible through glass panels. Pristine housekeeping is noticeable.
This is an ideal spot for those unfamiliar with the Vietnamese style to get an introduction to the appealing fare. Co-proprietor Tien Nguyen (who loosely translates Quan Nem Ngon as “Delicious Bistro”) seems to genuinely enjoy helping the undecided with the menu. But since the dishes are listed with both Vietnamese and English descriptions, not much help is needed, except perhaps for the technique of putting together the rice paper salad rolls.
About those rolls: Although they may be served ready to eat from the kitchen, some diners like to put together their own. For those who do — and try it, you’ll surprise yourself — out come all the ingredients, with a rice paper water bowl in which to dip the sheets of rice paper to soften it. The rice paper is placed on a plate, to be topped with fresh leaf lettuce, diced daikon, a stem of garlic chive, fresh herbs and, in one version, a strip of pork patty, and in another, grilled salmon and rice noodles, then rolled into a neat little package. Voila! You’ve done it.
A sweet/sour house dipping sauce is the final touch. It’s a dish that is an appetizer to share – there are six of the rolls to an order – or a full entrée.
Other notable dishes: the crisp little cha gio, spring rolls of pork and mushrooms, with chili lime dipping sauce (the tiny dice of fiery red Thai pepper in the sauce should be approached with caution); mien ga, chicken soup with glass noodles, a variation on pho; and bun nem nuong, lemongrass-marinated beef over rice noodles with mixed greens and garlic lime fish sauce.
Beverages include fresh lemonade, freshly squeezed orange juice, Vietnamese coffee and a number of fruit smoothies.
Service is emphasized and the staff shows its training. Tien Nguyen says they’ll be adding to the menu as time goes on.
Open only since April, this “delicious bistro” is doing very well for itself.
Quan Nem Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
30701 Dequindre, Madison Heights
Call: (248) 268-4310
Rating: 3 stars (out of 4)
Hours: 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily
Prices: Sandwiches (banh mi) $3.50-$5.50, noodle salads $8.50-$16.99,
rice paper rolls $11.99-$18.99,
house specialties $11.99-$13.99
Credit cards: All major
Noise level: Low
Parking: Attached strip mall lot
Wheelchair access: No barriers