Food Tour of Iowa: A Dong, Des Moines
2 weeks ago, I started to get a serious craving for a good bowl of Vietnamese pho. I thought I was straight out of luck. No way, I thought, would I be able to find a good Vietnamese restaurant any closer than Chicago. However, when my dad and I went into Des Moines this last Saturday, I saw a slim chance to satisfy the urge for pho that had been gnawing at me. A quick search for “Vietnamese Des Moines” on Google popped up one destination: A Dong.
Located right outside of the heart of downtown, A Dong occupies a non descript but nice facility. However, the extensive menu immediately thrills. With over 100 (!) items, it takes on a little while to make ones mind up. My dad had never had Vietnamese food before, so my selection was what I considered to be “typical” Vietnamese food, if a culture with such a breadth of ingredients and styles can be said to have three typical dishes.
We started off with some regular spring rolls: cabbage, minced pork and rice vermicelli noodles (a Vietnamese staple) wrapped tightly together in rice paper. The rolls were good: crisp and fresh tasting, they compared well with what I have had in Los Angeles. The dipping sauce was not as good, but I prefer just a little hot sauce anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal.
For the entrée, I chose a standard beef pho as well as a shrimp and pork soup. Sorry for the lack of the “real” name; I cleverly nabbed a menu, and then lost it. Both were served with a bowl of raw bean sprouts, cilantro, mint and peppers to flavor the broths.
The pho was good; the stock, which is the cornerstone of the dish, was nice and hearty, with good beef flavor. There could have been a little more beef in the dish in general, but it definitely satisfied my craving. The other soup, which was a slightly spicy, tomato based broth with thin pasta noodles, as opposed to rice, was OK. The seafood broth was overpowered by the spiciness, and there were not enough shrimp in the soup to give it a distinct flavor. Not that is was bad, per se; just not as good as the pho.
A Dong provided an excellent overall Vietnamese experience. The dishes could have benefited from a little more meat in general, but otherwise were enjoyable. The prices were definitely correct (our meal was $17 for 2), and the service was good. I look forward to returning to A Dong and working my way through more of their menu.