Mango's Noodle House is not my, nor your, parent's kind of pho place. The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs reverberating from the speakers tipped me off. The restaurant's contemporary décor matches the music, but the food isn't quite as progressive.
That's not to say that the presentation isn't pretty; it's just that once you get past the hipster music and trappings, the food could be considered the same as any you'd find in your average Vietnamese eatery. The catch is that Mango boasts quite the ambitious selection. With a menu including varieties of pho, pork chop rice plates, wonton noodle soup, Korean barbecued ribs and sweet and sour pork all crammed onto one page, one could say that there's something for everyone. Oh, and there has also been the recent addition of sushi. (Of course there has.) As was evident by the bustling lunch crowd on the day of my visit, this multifarious formula is succeeding, despite some conspicuously steep prices.
Tucked into a small Farmers Branch shopping strip, Mango's charges from $7.49 for a regular sized bowl of pho to $9.49 for an extra large, while other lunch entrees fall between the $8 to $12 marks. The price points can be a tad jarring to a new visitor, but the lunch-break regulars don't seem to mind. It could have something to do with the lack of Asian variety in the neighborhood, or it could be Mango's handsome-sized portions, but most likely it's a combination of the two.
Portions are generally plentiful (a friend's eight pieces of shrimp and scoop of fried rice for $8.50 was a joke), but the execution of the food I tried left something to be desired. A dish of two Vietnamese-style grilled pork chops with rice was a generous plate of food, but the meat was disappointingly tough and dry. An appetizer-size pho with round-eye beef boasted a tad too much star anise, overwhelming an otherwise satisfactorily subtle broth. Yes, Mango's offers a small appetizer pho for $3.99. As someone who typically likes to order appetizers in order to try a little bit of everything, this is very cool and much appreciated. Keep in mind, however, that it is small, and a dollar more could get you a regular sized bowl of noodles elsewhere, but it does allow you to at least try the pho while possibly ordering something else on top of it.
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At $9.99 for five rolls, the dish runs high. Mango's serves the sampler with each roll cut in half to create an illusion that there is more food that there actually is, but ultimately it breaks down to $2 per roll. For one person, the dish is filling, but for a dish that is meant to be shared I found myself jockeying with my friends to see who would get which roll.
The restaurant nails the sticky and chewy texture of the rolls' rice paper wraps, but it would have been nice to have a bit more protein and veggies and a little less vermicelli. Out of all five of the rolls, the crunchy mango beef was the best. Of course it had the unfair advantage of having deep-fried spring roll skin amongst its ingredients of beef and mango, or otherwise it would have tasted flat like the other rolls. Most disappointing were the white fish and the satay beef. What I imagined would be a thick piece of flaky fish amidst a sea of greens wound up coming out as a small sliver of parched catfish, seared to the point of jerky-like extinction. As for the "satay," hidden in a thick nest of vermicelli and blasphemously mislabeled, there was nary a hint of grilling or marinating that makes satay so wondrously flavorful.
With such an anemic representation of Asian food in the area, it's not difficult to see why the nearby workers and natives flock to this restaurant. Proximity and convenience for those in its vicinity might just be Mango's strong suit. It might even have something to do with why the restaurant offers so much variety. I didn't even get close to trying the sushi or anything from the tome that is the drink list (cookies and cream smoothie, anyone?), which I'm sure adds to the restaurant's appeal. If you're not already in the neighborhood, however, I just don't see those or the badass playlist being enough reason to make the odyssey to Farmers Branch.
Mango's Noodle House
13605 Midway Road, Ste. 140