Sunday, October 9, 2011

Simply delicious Vietnamese food

A plate of cooked bok choyImage via Wikipedia
Fish, bok choy (above) and rice make a great one-dish meal.

It's been more than a year since we had our first meal at Simply Vietnamese in Tenafly, and on Saturday evening, we discovered three one-dish dinners that will keep us coming back for more.

When we walked up to the entrance, we found Chef/Owner K.T. Tran having an early dinner with friends at an outdoor table. And inside, we learned the restaurant has expanded and doubled in size.

The new room has the same red walls as the original, with Vietnamese accents here and there.

I chose the broiled basa fillet, which is a member of the catfish family farmed in Vietnam and Thailand ($19). I asked for the spicy version with a ginger-scallion sauce.

The generous fillet was served on a bed of leafy bok choy, and topped with carmelized onions and sweet pepper, as well as crisped onion, with a big bowl of white rice on the side. Beautiful.

What more could you ask for in one dish: tasty fish, greens and a starch. Brown rice ($2) and scallion rice with fried eggs ($4) also are available.

Joe The Waiter recommended his favorite, the House Noodle Soup with ribs ($12), to my 14-year-old son, who was wowed by the sweet, pork-infused chicken broth and how the meat fell off the bones of the slow-roasted pork ribs. He also enjoyed gnawing the soft bones and marrow.

My wife ordered the specialty of the house, pho soup, with its heady anise-scented broth, and asked for the shrimp version ($14). We've been eating Tran's pho since 2001, when she opened opened Saigon R in Englewood (closed in the summer of 2010) and Mo' Pho in Fort Lee.

The soups came with a garnish plate of crunchy bean sprouts, sliced jalapeno peppers, fresh cilantro and fresh lime, and there were hot, chili and oyster sauces on the table.

My family yells at me when I tell them what to order or suggest we share dishes, so I remained silent when my mother-in-law picked a Vietnamese Salad with shrimp ($11), expecting a Western salad with tomatoes. 

The dressing was made with fish sauce and peanuts were added to the cabbage, cucumber and carrot salad. She took most of the salad home.

We also shared an appetizer, translucent rice-paper summer rolls stuffed with vegetables and shrimp, with an unusual peanut-fish sauce for dipping ($8).

I thought I'd end my meal with a cup of Vietnamese drip coffee, which is served with sweet condensed milk (on the house). The small pot with a powder of coffee and hot water is placed directly over the cup.

I love strong coffee -- and this was one had bulging muscles -- but it kept me up, tossing and turning long after midnight.

Simply Vietnamese, 1 Highwood Plaza, Tenafly;
201-568-7770. BYO. Free street parking.

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