MORRIS COUNTY — In January 2020, never anticipated three months later, in March 2020, an emergency declaration would cause the implementation of COVID shutdowns and the tremendous hardships that would create for the restaurant industry. Pham Hieu took a chance and acquired ownership of Pho Ninh Kieu, a previously established Vietnamese restaurant, as his first venture into Parsippany’s diverse culinary scene. Fortunately for Mr. Hieu and Parsippany, the restaurant struggled through those tough days and is now a fixture in the community.
Pham Hieu, originally from South Viet Nam, arrived in America, along with his parents and siblings, several years ago. Armed with his enterprising spirit, his mother’s home recipes, and a desire to share his homeland’s cuisine, he renovated and redecorated the small eatery to create the ambiance and vibe specific to the cuisine. His mother’s recipe for Pho, where bone marrow is cooked for ten hours every day, is one of the highlight dishes of Pho Ninh Kieu.
Like so many wonderful little eateries in our area, Pho Ninh Kieu is tucked away alongside a row of other businesses in a small strip mall on New Road at the intersection of Route 46 West. Look for the bright, glass front exterior, with the large white and red signage announcing Pho’ Ninh Kieu, Vietnamese Noodle and Grill Restaurant.
The interior, with approximately 12 tables spaced comfortably throughout the dining area, establishes a cozy, casual, intimate, and warm atmosphere. It is immaculately clean, comfortable, and well-designed. Pleasant ambient lighting from the large front windows, aesthetically pleasing laminated wooden tables, matching chairs accentuated with white brick façade walls over softwood paneling, a brick hostess counter, appealing, bright tile flooring, and of course, ethnic artwork, ceiling hangings, architecture, and artifacts all help to enhance a great dining experience. One standout focal point that attracts the eye is a beautiful, large painting of the province of Ninh Kieu, carefully placed along the center wall of the restaurant. Ninh Kieu is a waterfront district in Can Tho, in southern Vietnam, and was the home of the prior owner of Pho Ninh Kieu. When Pham Hieu saw the painting, he was so impressed that he retained the establishment’s name.
The service was exceptional. On entry, our host/waiter, Kevin, the owner’s brother, was extremely friendly and welcoming. It immediately made our group feel at home. Menus, tableware, and water was brought expeditiously. As usual with this group, there was a lot of discussion and questions for our waiter, Kevin, who was happy to answer all our questions and seemed to enjoy talking with us. The restaurant was well-occupied, yet the service was quick, attentive, and professional throughout our meal. And don’t forget to bring your favorite beer or wine, as Pho Ninh Kieu is BYOB. For the occasion, I found a nice Saigon Lager Beer at Joe Canal’s Discount Liquor Outlet, a nearby liquor store.
When most people think of Vietnamese food, they think of Pho (pronounced “fuh”) and Bahn mi sandwiches. Great examples for sure, but there is much more to Viet Nam cuisine, which like most cultural foods, can be distinguished by the region of the country where it originated. Plus, with the influence of China and France during their colonization, Vietnamese cuisine became even more enriched and diversified. Besides the cuisine’s deliciousness, most Vietnamese food is harmonious, healthy, light to eat, colorful, and very diet friendly.
The most well-known Vietnamese cuisine is pho (“fuh”), a hearty broth served with rice noodles and toppings that include bean sprouts, limes, fresh basil or cilantro, and peppers, which was my choice for this visit. Additional fresh herbs, bean sprouts, basil, peppers, and limes arrived as a side dish to the Pho so that you can customize your dish to your taste. I added everything to the broth and loved it. The key to a good pho (besides the 10-hour cooking time I mentioned earlier), I am told, is a perfectly spiced, highly aromatic, simmering broth with deep, intense flavor. The texture and bite of the fresh noodles and vegetables, which filled my generously sized bowl, were perfectly complemented by those fresh herbs, bean sprouts, limes, Thai basil, and peppers. My choice of the House Combo came with a combination of an eye of round, flank, brisket, beef ball, tendon, and tripe, which, when cooked in the Pho, completed this flavorful dish and was a delicious and delicate culinary delight. Of course, you can customize your dish with your choice of pork, beef, chicken, or a fish base, as well as the level of spiciness of your dish. As I’ve said many times, I prefer my food on the spicy side, so in this case, I added some hot pepper sauce, which is on the table, to kick it up a bit. You will find that the flavors of the broth deepen and intensify the further down you go in the bowl. This savory dish did pack a punch!
For appetizers, the group shared some shrimp summer rolls, pork dumplings, pork and chicken eggrolls, fried crispy squid (floured, lightly fried, with sweet and sour sauce), and grilled lean pork banh mi (a short baguette with a thin, crisp crust and soft, airy texture). You won’t go wrong ordering any one of these; all savory and flavorful.
Entrees included Pork Chop & Shrimp Lemongrass (lemongrass imparts a flavor of lemon with hints of ginger, with floral and minty notes) with Bell Pepper, Eye of Round & Tripe Pho, Beef Lemongrass with Bell Pepper, and my selection of the House Combo Pho dish. Tableware included quality chopsticks (wrapped), Asian soup spoons for your pho, hot pepper sauce, and Hoisin Sauce (a sweet and slightly salty dipping sauce). Remember, the pepper sauce is hot, and try not to go overboard with the Hoisin Sauce, as a little goes a long way.
Whether you are a long-time fan of Vietnamese cuisine or trying it out for the first time, I’m confident you will enjoy adding Pho Ninh Kieu to your culinary journey for a new and exciting dining adventure.
Relaxed, strip-mall nook offering pho & other Vietnamese sandwiches & entrees to eat in or take out.
BYOB – Dine-in · Takeout · Delivery – Vegan Options – Takes Reservations – Off-Road Parking
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Daily (Closed Tuesday) – 3% Credit Card Fee
Delivery by: Grubhub.com.
Pho Ninh Kieu (Vietnamese Noodle & Grill Restaurant) is located at 73 New Road, Parsippany; (973) 521-9900; Click here to view the website.
Reprinted from Parsippany Focus Magazine, August 2023.