Nong’s Thai Cuisine in Golden Valley

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

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.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

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.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

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.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

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.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Heavy Table Hot Five: Jan. 13-19

hotfive-flames

Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

Ted Held / Heavy Table
Ted Held / Heavy Table

1-new - oneChili Cheese Dog at Revival St. Paul
Attention all lovers of Revival’s cheeseburger! The newly opened St. Paul Revival has a chili cheese dog that is easily in the same class as the cheeseburger. A hot link with red flecks of chili and a charred, snappy casing, is topped with smoky, beefy burnt end chili. The whole mess is covered with melted cheese and a couple of giant pork rinds. In the bottom of the bowl is a pool of cheese sauce that soaks into the bun. Like the game-changing cheeseburger, we hope to see imitations popping up on menus across town.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an upcoming review by Ted Held]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

2-new - twoReturn of the River Monster at Thai Garden
We always worry that our favorite tiny independent spots are going to up and change on us, so it’s a relief when they haven’t. Nearly a year ago, we went bonkers for the River Monster — a whole red snapper swimming in tom yum soup — at the then newly opened Thai Garden. We went back on one particularly cold day last week and found that things are still humming at this University Avenue gem; the food took a while, but it was worth the wait, and the chef checked up on us to make sure everything was excellent. And it was!
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

3-new - threeQueso Fundido at Pajarito
Although the melted cheese in this classic Tex-Mex dish is plenty rich, it’s also surprisingly light on the palate. There’s nothing grossly greasy about it; it’s just pure dairy pleasure. But that’s only half the story of the Queso Fundido at the newly opened Pajarito in St. Paul: The warm, thick, fluffy, tender tortilla rounds that accompany this stuff are perfectly suited to the task. It’s a decisive one-two punch.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted from a review by James Norton]

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

4-new four The Annual Panettone
In Northern Italy, at Christmastime, every good bakery turns out a light, buttery panettone that bears little resemblance to the ones available in boxes. To get a fresh, real-ingredient flavor, we make our own, and while we’ve tried three or four recipes, we always go back to Paul Bertolli’s from Chez Panisse Cooking (recipe at the bottom of this page). But we add a half teaspoon of fiori di sicilia, which makes it taste authentic, and we bake it in a paper panettone form, which makes it look authentic. We produce our own candied peel (but you can buy some), and we soak it and the raisins in Grand Marnier (that goes back to an old Craig Claiborne recipe). All in all, panettone is a delectable treat well worth baking at home. Try it spread with mascarpone, as Italians often do. It’s also supposed to make fabulous bread pudding, but we can’t imagine having leftovers.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveCaldo Verde
We picked up this soup while living in a heavily Portuguese and Brazilian neighborhood in Cambridge, Mass., and it has become our go-to cold-weather buster. It’s a simple mix of chorizo, potatoes, kale, onions, and stock, but the flavor is deep and gets sublimely creamy and rich the day after you make it. We got our super-flavorful and funky chorizo at La Alborada, but you can make it work with standard-issue supermarket chorizo — it’s a hard soup to mess up. Check out the Instagram post for the recipe.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an instagram post by James Norton]

Heavy Table Hot Five: Sep. 16-22

hotfive-flames

Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

1-new - oneSmoked Tomato Soup from The Bachelor Farmer
The puree is smooth and simple. Its tomatoes, grown in the restaurant’s rooftop garden, are lightly smoked, which tempers their sweetness while adding depth. Centered in the bowl is a wedge of medium-ripe Alemar Bent River cheese that has been breaded and fried. The breading picks up a coating of soup without becoming soggy. A spoonful of runny cheese, crisp breading, and smoky-sweet soup with a few bits of chive has everything the palate longs for.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

2-new - twoFestbier at Fair State Brewing Cooperative
Oktoberfest beers can get boozy and / or sweet in a hurry due to the malt-forward character of the beer and the common brewer’s instinct to “stick ’em with the seasonal big guns!” Not so the 5.7 percent ABV Festbier at Fair State, which is pleasantly crisp, autumnally toasty, and eminently drinkable by the pint. (We ordered a half glass to start and immediately regretted it, as it went down in a few smooth and lovely gulps). This is our new go-to flavor for autumn.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

3-new - threeSzechuan Chicken Dumplings at Tea House
We’ve raved up the best-in-the-metro kung pao at Tea House before, but on a recent return trip, it was the house-made Szechuan Chicken Dumplings that won our hearts. Tender and delicate with a pronounced but balanced lingering heat (plus a Szechuan peppercorn buzz) and complemented by green onions, these are easily among the tastiest dumplings in a city full of them. Along with Hong Kong Noodle, Tea House has shot to the top of our chart for Chinese-American food.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

4-new fourCoffee-Rubbed Wood-Fire-Grilled Lamb
Full-flavored, pleasantly earthy, and tender — our quartered lamb paired well with its coffee-and-spice rub and the warmth of the coals powering the Grill of the Gods at Chef Camp. This was one of those dishes that brings together a range of skilled artisans: camp cook Noah Barton (the chef who opened and built the powerhouse that is Chino Latino, and is now working at General Mills), the farmers of Shepherd Song, and the coffee importers and roasters at Tiny Footprint. If you’re going to grill for a crowd, you may as well go big and bold.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #2 | Submitted by James Norton]

Ted Held / Heavy Table
Ted Held / Heavy Table

5-new -five300 IPA by Fulton Beer
As someone who always found Fulton’s original IPA, Sweet Child of Vine to be too malty and too mild, I was floored by their other, newer IPA, simply called 300 ($12 per six-pack). Tastefully bitter and profoundly floral, the complex Mosaic hops all but mute any malty sweetness. Originally intended as a celebratory one-off to be available in the tap room only, we’re thrilled to see it bottled up and added to Fulton’s permanent collection.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ted Held]

Vomacka Round-Up

Vomacka
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

“Well, basically,” the server said, rolling her eyes at having to explain this so often, “vomacka is a creamy vegetarian soup. With no meat.” Explanation over.

For those wanting to know more, vomacka (voh-MAHTCH-ka) is the Czech word for “gravy.” It’s also a comfort food soup, comprised at its most basic of cream or half-and-half as well as potatoes, green beans, and dill. But there are variations galore throughout Eastern Europe that add pretty much any vegetable you can think of. So it’s not surprising that Minnesota communities with roots in Eastern Europe, like New Prague and Jordan, have vomacka as a regular item on cafe menus, using house recipes that are said to be generations old. If you happen to be in either of these charming towns (easy day trip from the Twin Cities), here are your options.

Lau's
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Lau’s Czech Bakery, on New Prague’s Main Street, offers vomacka every Thursday (and into the weekend if there’s enough). The version served here is bare bones, mostly green and yellow beans and potatoes. The base is silky and thick, but it would benefit from some more aromatic veggies; if there were any celery or onions involved here, they weren’t detectable. Diners have the option of squirting a bit of white vinegar onto the soup to up the flavor level.

The Churn: Union, Borough, and More

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Well Fed Guide to Life heads to New Bohemia (pictured above; our review here). City Pages raves up Union, Iggers does the same for Borough and Parlour. Three great local soups from Stephanie March. And a year in review in brew.

House Special Noodle in Soup at Keefer Court

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

A small, nondescript storefront in Cedar-Riverside, Keefer Court is easy to miss. Further, since it’s billed primarily as a bakery, there’s little reason to wander in unless you’re in the market for a moon cake, cream roll, egg tart, or redbean cookie. So we were surprised to learn that Keefer Court offers a full menu of Chinese fare, with everything from pot stickers, fried rice, and lo mein to sweet and sour grouper, salt and pepper short ribs, and stuffed tofu fritters. But it’s the meal-sized soups that make this a place worth seeking out.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

The menu lists twenty soups, but the actual number of choices seems substantially lower. During our last visit, we were turned back with a decisive shake of the head when ordering a soup with fish balls and another with shredded pork. No matter: the House Special Noodle in Soup ($8, pictured at top) is always available. And it’s awesome, a true destination dish that’s worth a special trip.

When entering Keefer Court, it’s tough not to stop and gawk at the beautiful roasted duck and glazed BBQ pork displayed in their own case. To our great delight, the House Soup features these two delicacies. The thick slices of pork are sweet and tender, and the cuts of duck are rich and moist. Both go perfectly with the deep shellfish and pork broth.

In case the duck and pork aren’t enticing enough, the soup also includes a couple of deliciously dense shrimp wantons that pop with flavor, as well as a heaping portion of thin but sturdy noodles. For an extra $.50, the kitchen will add “vegetables” — i.e., bok choy — to any of the noodle soups, and we suggest taking them up on it. The cabbage adds freshness to a stout dish.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Of course, it would be a shame (if not a sacrilege) to leave Keefer Court without a pastry or two. We’re particularly fond of two coconut options: the tart and the cream roll. After dessert, take a savory BBQ pork bun for the road — it’ll tide you over until you can get back to the West Bank for the awkwardly named, but oh-so-tasty, House Special Noodle in Soup.

Keefer Court
Bakery and Cafe

326 Cedar Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55454
612.340.0937
HOURS:
10am-9pm
Closed Tuesdays
RESERVATIONS: No
BAR: None
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Limited
ENTREE RANGE: $6-17

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Wasabi and Steak Stew and Recipe Roundup

Wasabi and steak stew, soupe au pistou, roasted carrot (or pumpkin) cumin soup, garlic toasts, and whole wheat sandwich bread.

Chocolate Chip-Ground Coffee Bean Cookies and Recipe Roundup

Open Monster-Face Sandwiches, warm Rush Creek Reserve with coal-roasted vegetables, loaded baked potato soup, black pepper walleye with beluga lentils, granola and baked apples, roasted winter squash soup, Southwest butternut squash soup, stuffed squash, chocolate chip-ground coffee bean cookies, and vegetable curry.

Spiced Ginger Cake and Recipe Roundup

Thai turkey meatballs, a Wisconsin cheese muffuletta, harvest soup, spiced ginger cake, chimichurri potato and tomato salad, fried green tomatoes, and mushroom and apple quinoa.

Autumn Soups and Recipe Roundup

Madison grits, butternut squash and lentil soup, pumpkin lentil soup, collard greens from Piccolo, Swiss chard and leeks with goat cheese, and Jade’s “any bean” dish.

Trout Caviar and Recipe Roundup

Trout Caviar’s guide to making trout caviar, challah, spiced molasses cake, and coconut curry squash soup.

Pumpkin Cocktails and Recipe Roundup

Plain ice cream, bacon-wrapped chicken shish kebabs, chocolate cheescake, pumpkin cocktails, apple-pecan cake with warm caramel sauce, carrots with whiskey caramel sauce, chicken with whiskey cream sauce, chili and cornbread, fennel-roasted red pepper soup, and chicken wild rice soup.