Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Mignon Pho + Grill
Tucked in one of the many mini-malls along Convoy Street, Mignon didn't make much of an outside effort to stand out from the crowd. The blacked-out windows revealed very little, but the decor inside lent the impression that the restaurant is a cut-above just another takeout place. Lots of honey-colored wood and high ceilings created a soothing, lofty atmosphere. Along one wall, a display of beer bottles ended with a novelty: a cobra, coiled as if ready to strike, preserved in a bottle of vodka. Nor for sale.
For starters, Mignon had an intriquing selection of grilled skewers. An order of chicken hearts ($3.50) received a touch of salt and pepper, a slice of lime, and nothing else since such a tidbit wants for very little alteration. Chicken gizzards, beef tongue, beef tenderloin, and frog legs rounded out the menu.
Mignon's pho was built around a very delicate broth. It was crystal clear, indicative of careful preparation, and deeply flavored with beef and herbs, but there wasn't as much of the salty, oily, umami character that pho often has. There could have been more steak in the filet mignon pho, but the medium sized portion ($7.50) was still generous enough to make a filling meal. Because of the subtle flavor of the broth, it no difficulty to drain every last drop of the liquid soup.
Elsewhere on the menu, rice and vermicelli dishes sported sometimes overly cutesy names like Cow Ate My Shrimp (sauteed beef and shrimp over rice) and the Piggy Plate, which puts pork skin, shredded pork, meatloaf, and a pork chop on the same dish.
The ubiquitous Vietnamese coffee, prepared with condensed milk, at Mignon was brewed at the table in a single serving coffee maker that combined espresso and drip coffee. The device was a sort of small, metal chalice that sat on top of a pint glass. The coffee grounds in the top dripped, at an excruciating pace, over the condensed milk. Ice came in a separate cup on the side. While labor intensive, it was a cool way to get a fresh cup of coffee!
3860 Convoy Street
Open daily 11AM-Late