At your convenience

Slices of beef swim in a bowl of pho with onion and fresh herbs at Far East Moana.

Slices of beef swim in a bowl of pho with onion and fresh herbs at Far East Moana.

Photo By David Robert

Far East Moana

1295 East Moana Ln.
Reno, NV 89502

(775) 825-9885

On the corner of Moana and Neil, out where the old Moana ends and the new one begins, is a new little shopping center. And in that shopping center is a convenience store, and within that convenience store is some surprisingly good Vietnamese and Chinese food. This is Far East Moana. It’s kind of a weird place because as you sit there, enjoying your pho soup, dudes come wandering in off the street to buy Cheetos and cigarettes.

But it’s actually fairly comfortable. This is partly because the food is tasty, but it’s largely because the service is so accommodating. The woman behind the counter, who seemed a likely candidate for the “Ma” factor in the “Ma-and-Pop” equation, was very concerned for my well-being and that of my friends Paul and Sara. She asked us often how we were doing and even gave us the remote to the television they have. We watched part of the movie Gremlins and an episode of The Simpsons. We felt right at home there in the middle of the convenience store.

“It’s actually really nice having the store here,” said Paul. “How many times have you been in the middle of dinner and thought, ‘What this meal really needs is some beef jerky.’ Well, now look, it’s right there!”

“Or motor oil,” added Sara.

We decided to embrace the immediate presence of the convenience store by enjoying one of their more unusual beverage offerings. We made Brass Monkey, which is, of course, a cocktail made by mixing malt liquor and orange juice—a drink made famous by the Beastie Boys’ song of the same name. There aren’t too many local restaurants that sell both Olde E and OJ, so that’s a real perk.

We started out with a couple orders of fresh spring rolls ($4.95). These were the largest spring rolls I’ve ever encountered. They were great but way too filling for an appetizer that’s supposed to be light and airy.

I had the special pho ($6.25), that wonderful Vietnamese noodle soup with steak, flank, tripe and other assorted pieces of delicious bovine (though I was a little suspicious of the “beefballs"). It wasn’t the best pho I’ve ever had, but it was quite good. Sara had the chicken variation of pho ($5.50) and was happy with it.

Paul had the kung pao chicken ($7.50), the spicy peanut Chinese favorite. The Far East Moana version added fresh cilantro, which turned out to be a nice variation and might’ve made it the most impressive dish of the meal.

I got the sense that the food was a real labor of love and that the store was there largely to sustain the restaurant. With the wide-ranging menu and fresh ingredients, a restaurant like this might struggle, but the store seems to be doing well enough to sustain them both, so the restaurant can focus on quality rather than frugality.

It’s certainly not fine dining, but if you’re in the mood for something unusual, this place is fun. It’s a nice addition, especially since there’s not another Vietnamese place in that part of town. The grub’s good, you can purchase the fixings for exotic cocktails, the service is friendly, and you really can’t beat it for convenience.