Eight out of ten restaurants I visit are disappointing. Demoralization is my stock in trade. But it is something I have grown so inured to that I can experience the pure joy of a great find. Such a gem is Que Nha, a clean, bright restaurant that serves some of the best Vietnamese food in the Cities.
Que Nha offers something for everyone, from spring rolls to superb chili-spiked wok-tossed goat with slivered onions. With more than thirty meal-in-a-bowl soups available, Que Nha knows a thing or two about pho, mi, and hu tieu. The classic pho tai, a sturdy broth loaded with rice stick noodles and crowned with paper-thin shavings of raw beef, which cook as the dish makes its way from the kitchen to the table, is as good a barometer of quality as I can imagine—Que Nha’s is the local exemplar. Ditto hot and spicy chicken with lemongrass, a perfect balance of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy. Bun cha Ha Noi, grilled pork on cold rice noodles, is also superb, as are all the other bun I sampled. Those watching their waistlines will be thrilled with these clean and healthy grilled meat salads, and those watching their pocketbooks will find much to cheer about. Most menu offerings are between $5 and $8, and the $2.50 banh mi sandwiches in half a dozen styles are made to order on a spectacular, easy-to-eat, crusty roll and many local sub shops should take note.
In many small ethnic eateries the hospitality and service quotient is low, but at Que Nha, owner Ha Nguyen is constantly patrolling the tables. She is fiercely proud of her restaurant and rightfully so. Que Nha should be high on everyone’s must-go-now list. It is simply a joy.
849 University Ave., St. Paul, 651-290-8552