Authentic, delicate flavors

Rodman Ngo

Photo by Elizabeth Castillo

With the opening of Vietnam Bistro, restaurant manager Rodman Ngo and his family hope to bring the vibrant and fresh flavors of their heritage to Chico. Ngo’s mom and uncle help run the kitchen at the East Avenue restaurant, using recipes that have been prepared by his family for generations, says the L.A. native, who moved to Chico with his mother to be near family and to open the restaurant. Inside the eatery, patrons will find bright yellow walls and a decidedly casual ambiance. Ngo wanted to ensure that all customers felt welcome, he said. Ngo said the restaurant’s broad menu—with a wide selection of appetizers, entrees and traditional Vietnamese slushies (he recommends the popular vermicelli served with an egg roll and grilled shrimp)—helps it stand out. Vietnam Bistro is located at 788 East Ave. and is open every day, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

What made you decide to open a restaurant in Chico?

Some of our family members have been living in Chico for quite some time now, at least 15, 20 years. They didn’t feel like Vietnamese food was well represented in Chico. My family is originally from southern Vietnam, so they have a good feel for what good, authentic Vietnamese food should taste like. I think we’re able to achieve that.

What sets Vietnam Bistro apart?

With Vietnamese food, people take pride in it being very fresh and delicate. Nothing is ever precooked here. When the lights are off, we’re still here. Everything needs to be fresh, everything needs to be made the day of. All the veggies are cut and washed in the morning and all the steak is grilled after you order it. It’s never premade, that’s not what we aim for. The food here is very fresh and authentic.

How traditional is the cuisine you serve?

The recipes used here are very traditional. It’s very authentic and not Americanized. This is the first restaurant in the family, and it’s all family recipes that my grandma taught my mom. This is stuff that we used to have every other day—you grow up with it and it’s great to see that people enjoy it as much as I do.

How’s the first month of business been?

It’s been fantastic. With a new restaurant or business, you worry that the first two months you’re still trying to build foot traffic, but right out of the gates, we did very well. Throughout the first week, we were very busy. Reading some of the Yelp reviews and messages, I would say we’re developing a following.

Is there a secret to authentic Vietnamese food?

In Vietnamese dishes, you use fish sauce. It’s a very traditional sauce, a primary sauce. I would say half the menu uses fish sauce.