The Flavors of Vietnam (and Mom’s cooking)
by Jamie LaFreniere
Tony Nguyen Vietnamese Cuisine
555 North Casaloma Drive, Grand Chute
If you’re anything like me, you’re always on the lookout for new restaurants here in Appleton, and Tony Nguyen Vietnamese Cuisine is an exciting option. Taking over the spot formerly occupied by Wildflower Pizza on North Casaloma Drive in Grand Chute, owner Tony Nguyen has transformed the space into a comfortable, casual, and affordable place to sample something new or enjoy something familiar. The restaurant opened in January of 2020, and has found its rhythm and its niche, providing warm and friendly service along with an extensive menu that showcases Pho, the signature Vietnamese noodle soup.
Chef and owner Tony Nguyen spent ten years cooking throughout Europe, in Prague, Paris, and Berlin, before moving to Appleton five years ago. His goal for this, his first restaurant, was to give Appleton something special and diverse, combining fresh, healthy, and clean ingredients into tasty Vietnamese cuisine that pays homage to his mother, an expert chef whose love and sacrifice Tony remembers with every dish.
On a recent visit to Tony Nguyen, my dining companions and I started off with Vietnamese coffee, a sweet drink served cold or hot; an avocado Boba tea from the extensive list of flavors; and a coconut smoothie with subtle, not overly sweet flavor. In addition to the smoothies and Boba tea, the restaurant offers wine, beer, and a full bar specializing in tropical drinks. (Tony Nguyen recommends the Brother John.)
We moved on to an appetizer sampler featuring crab rangoons, summer rolls, and our favorite, the pork dumplings which are very gently deep fried for a lovely contrast with the tender, savory pork filling. The summer rolls were bursting with fresh flavor, and each one had a whole shrimp and a crispy rolled wanton “stick” inside for a rather different take from most spring and summer rolls I’ve tried.
Tony Nguyen’s entrée menu offers something for everyone, whether you’re familiar with Vietnamese cuisine or totally new to it. Try the Pho, or go for fried rice, lo mein, entrees featuring beef, chicken, pork, and seafood, or something from the enticing list of Vietnamese street food. There are also many vegetarian offerings. Tony Nguyen says that the dishes he would recommend to a first-time visitor are Pho, Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich), Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake), and Bo Ne (sizzling beef).
Entrees range in price from $8-$20, and the portions are large enough that most people will walk out with leftovers to enjoy later.
Taking Tony’s advice, I ordered the Vietnamese pancake, and it was presented so beautifully, I almost didn’t want to eat it. Almost. The pancake, entirely new to me, was a crispy, wafer-thin crepe, made from rice flour and turmeric, and stuffed with vegetables and pork. The dish was so good it made me want to try every item in the Vietnamese street food section of the menu.
Other entrees we sampled were the teriyaki tofu and the house special scallops. Both dishes were expertly crafted stir fry served with steamed rice and an abundance of color and style. Every dish we tried at Tony Nguyen was a feast for the eyes and the stomach.
Tony Nguyen Vietnamese Cuisine is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; from 12-7 p.m. on Sunday; and closed on Tuesday.