Golden Triangle is something special5/21/2014
New noodle shops are dancing to the tunes of musical chairs. Embassy Club executive chef Michael Bailey has opened Noodle Boy downtown in the Riverwalk Hub specializing in pho (beef stock noodle soup) and banh mis (rice flour hoagies). Sam Auen announced that his Tacopocalypse will again move, this time from Des Moines Street location of the present City Bakery, which is moving to another East Village venue. Auen will then open Krunchwich Ramen (Japanese noodle soup) Shop there. For now, Noodle Boy is open on Saturdays, and the Auen-initiated projects are scheduled for June or July. In the meantime, another new pho specialist has been building a solid following all spring in the new Macvilay Plaza.
The Samane Vongphakly family’s Golden Triangle offers a short menu of Thai, Lao, Vietnamese and Chinese offerings. They specialize in pho and a number of other things that are not on the menu but which regular customers know to order ahead. The café has a smoker large enough to slow-cook two whole pigs at the same time. Those are cooked only for special occasions now, but the smoker stays busy all weekend turning ducks into miracles of crisp, golden skin and moist meat that are probably the greatest invention of Mandarin cuisine. Hot pots, another off-menu specialty, bring double pots of stock (beef and chicken) to tables along with plates of dried rice threads, greens, herbs, meats, fish and shellfish. Diners then cook personal combinations before adding ground chilies, chile oil and chile paste.
Pho dishes featured chicken or leg bone beef stock and the usual additions of tendon, brisket, meatballs, chicken breast, sirloin roast and tripe, plus greens, sprouts, lime, chilies and noodles. Golden Triangle offers something new to the local pho scene, though, yentofo. This is a gorgeous looking bowl of stock to which plum syrup and black bean sauce are added. Described as a coastal Thailand version of pho, it is filled with noodles, fish cakes, fish balls, shrimp, squid and rice noodles. Those fish balls and fish cakes were hand made from scratch, a rarity in Iowa.
Other noodle specialties included pad thai (medium-sized rice noodles), pad see eaw, drunken noodles and rad na (all wide-noodle dishes) in various sauces. Four curries were offered, most with coconut milk, some with peanuts. Both red and green versions provided deep flavors. So did Thai soups. My tom yum khai might be the best $3 bowl of soup in Iowa. Chicken stock was flavored with thick slices of galangal (ginger’s wild sister) and lemongrass then thickened with coconut cream. Kaffir lime leaves, angel mushrooms, cilantro and chicken breast were added at the last minute, assuring they were not overcooked.
Beef jerky was sun dried, steamed and fried to produce a tenderness not usually associated with jerky. Meatballs (beef or chicken) and sausage (pork) were also homemade. The latter were molded in natural casings with lard and shoulder, tasting as much like mortadella as traditional Chinese sausage. Ribs and wings were glazed with sweet things including honey.
Pad ma kua featured eggplant and black bean sauce. Golden catfish (an off-menu specialty) produced a headless, glazed fish cooked so that every morsel of meat easily detached from bones. Larb (marinated meat salad) and tom som (green papaya salad) were featured as entrees. All entrees included complimentary soup or salad. The latter was dressed in one of the best rice wine vinaigrettes in town. Rice choices included purple rice that was thickened with fermented black beans to a crunchiness much prized in Cantonese cuisine. Beer and wine were sold.
Side Dishes CelebrAsian will bring Iowa’s most comprehensive Asian cuisine to the state capitol complex on May 31… El Centroamericano store and El Cafecito Bakery have opened in Macvilay Plaza. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.Golden Triangle 1130 E. Ninth St., 266-0399 Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.