We got a tip that there was some far-better-than-average Thai food happening in a strip mall in Golden Valley, and decided we’d check it out.
Turns out it was a good call. Nong’s Thai Cuisine is a warm, welcoming eatery that filled up quickly once it opened for the day, and it was clear that many visitors were regulars and known to the staff. One gentleman noticed our photographer at work and came over to ask if we were reviewing Nong’s. When we said we were, he said he eats there just about every week, driving past two other Thai places on the way. Then, noticing that we hadn’t ordered the Tom Yum Soup ($11-$14.50, depending on meat choice), he went over to the buffet and grabbed a small bowl of it for us to try. (It was very good, with a rich broth and a nice undercurrent of heat.)
We asked our friendly server for recommendations, and she steered us in the right direction. The Pad Thai ($11-$14.50) was a solid rendition of the dish every Thai restaurant has, with a lightly sweet sauce and a considerable amount of meat, in our case a mixture of chicken and pork, cooked tender and juicy. The cilantro lover at the table wished for more of that herb, while noting not everyone would agree.
The Rice Noodle Soup with beef ($10) had a rich, lemongrass-forward broth and the tiniest bit of heat. Thin strips of beef were complemented by soft meatballs and a good amount of garlic oil. It was similar in taste to a traditional pho, with the broth seeming to have been slowly, gently developed. A couple of beef strips were a bit on the gristly side, but most were velvety and beautifully cooked.
But the dish everyone at the table fell in love with was the Thai Basil Stir Fry with a whole tilapia ($16). It was a showstopper in terms of appearance, with the fried whole fish peeking out from a generous coating of colorful vegetables and bits of minced chilies. It may not be as dramatic as Thai Garden’s River Monster, but it was still impressive to behold.
Even better, it was delicious. The fish had a wonderfully crunchy skin, with the insides flaky and hot, but not dry. We ordered the dish hot and would maybe try Thai hot on a future visit; the heat wasn’t overwhelming, but packed enough of a punch to make us thankful for tall glasses of ice water. The mild fish was enhanced with the addition of the chilies and jalapeño, and the vegetables were crispy and fresh-tasting.
Finishing off the meal with a Thai Iced Coffee ($3) was a sweet way to end a mostly savory meal. The beverage, served in a kitschy Mason jar, was a good blend of strong coffee and condensed milk, refreshing and quenching.
Nong’s Thai Cuisine, 2520 Hillsboro Ave N Golden Valley; 763.404.8190. Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Buffet lunch served Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-2 p.m.