My Own Private Quang

Other forays into uncharted territory were less successful. Banh hoi is a fried pancake of bun noodles cut into wedges like a pizza, served either with grilled pork meatballs ($5.99) or with a kebab made of grilled ground-shrimp balls skewered on sugar cane ($6.25). To me both ensembles seemed greasy, even when combined with the accompanying platters of bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, cucumber, and lettuce. A weekend special of banh cuon ($4.99), steamed rice noodles rolled around ground pork and topped with slices of head cheese, was the low point of my Quang dining--simply, terribly bland.

Daniel Truong says the restaurant is hoping to get a wine and beer license sometime this fall. Until then, satisfy yourself with Quang's simple, and delicious limeade ($1.95), a brisk beverage made with fresh lime and soda water. I've grown to like, but will never love, needle-textured fresh sugarcane juice ($2.50). And I've grown strongly fond of nuoc cam ($1), a narrow can of mandarin-orange juice that looks particularly attractive emptied into a glass of ice, where the pulp sacs float around like tiny goldfish. It's a nicely sour and bitter soft drink--if you like Campari or blood oranges, you should give this one a try.

Or maybe you shouldn't. The new Quang already has lines out the door at lunch and anytime on weekends, and while the queued-up masses move quickly--helped by an efficient teenage waitstaff that scurries as if in a treasure hunt--still, a line's a line.

Rich Ryan

So maybe what you should do is go every day. Twice a day. Then the Truongs will be so successful they'll be forced to open more locations, and we'll each have our own private Quang to revel in.

When I raised this theory with Daniel Truong, he skillfully avoided responding, noting instead that the restaurant's clientele does seem to be growing in an interesting way. "When we first opened 10 years ago, nearly 100 percent of our customers were Asian," he recalled. "But even though we haven't Americanized our food, we get more Caucasians every year. Now it's probably something like 60 percent Asian, 40 percent Caucasian.

"Yeah, we still get people who come in and say, 'I want sweet and sour chicken and fried rice,' and when we tell them we don't have it they walk away. But we get a lot more people who don't care about fried wontons with cream cheese, and since the number of Asians in this city is so much smaller than the number of Caucasians--" he breaks off, laughing nervously. As if he's betrayed too much. What? Are there new Quangs in the works? Truong won't say. C'mon, c'mon, I beg. Finally, he promises that City Pages will be the first to know. Nice save.

 

TABLEHOPPING

OFF WITH THEIR (TEA) HEADS! Hard to believe it's been a year since Highland Park's Tea Source threw open its doors. "Fastest year I ever lived," says Bill Waddington, the bright little shop's proprietor. To celebrate, Waddington is putting a bounty on each and every tea ball in the state: "They make lousy tea, so we have got to remove them from the general population," he explains. "When hot water hits tea leaves they increase in size dramatically, gaining two or four times their original volume. When they expand they release their flavor into the water. But tea balls are like a stainless steel cell, and the tea's flavor is trapped in there while you're drinking tepid water." Waddington plans to imprison the offenders in Mason jars and display them in his store, as a warning to all. The bounty is one dollar off the purchase of a new Swiss Gold tea filter, a thin, open-topped mesh cylinder that allows the tea to expand while still keeping messy leaves confined. If you've already abandoned your tea ball, you might be ready for one of Waddington's classes--like "Darjeeling Day," October 10. On D-day you'll be able to sample a whole range of what's often called "the champagne of teas" from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., for a fee of five dollars. Make reservations by visiting or calling Tea Source: 752 Cleveland Ave. S., St. Paul; (651) 690-9822. Hours are Monday-Saturday 10:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m., Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Or check out www.teasource.com.

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