Burlington’s 99 Asian Market as a new name: 99 Asian Market Eatery. Owner Niem Duong already offered a small take-out menu at her North Winooski Avenue shop, including pho, other noodle dishes and banh mi sandwiches. On Friday, she increased the number of offerings to about 60 dishes and added a handful of tables for dine-in customers.
Why the change? “I love to cook,” says Duong. “I want to cook all the time.”
Each week, Duong makes trips to Boston and Montréal to gather authentic supplies from Asia. She maintains that, because of her attention to detail, her fare is close to what one would find in her homeland. Many local Vietnamese restaurants try to appeal to a Western palate, says Duong, but “We make everything just like in Vietnam. It makes Vietnamese people so happy.”
Duong doesn’t cut corners, either. Though taro is a cheap staple food back home, it can be expensive in the States. Nonetheless, she uses it to give her pork egg rolls their unique flavor.
In the small kitchen at the back of the store sits a giant pot filled with what looks like a whole cow’s worth of bones, their rich essence slowly infusing the simmering liquid. The resulting aromatic broth will be the base of the restaurant’s pho. Nearby, Duong squeezes fresh limes into a mix of vegetables and chicken for a tangy, fish-sauce-spiked salad called goi ga.
And 99 has plenty of ways to wash down the authentic fare. In addition to a wide range of exotic juices in varieties such as basil seed and wax gourd, there are Vietnamese cà phê, fresh-squeezed lemonade and bubble or jelly teas flavored with ginger or green bean.
While the Burlington area certainly doesn’t lack for Vietnamese restaurants — 99 Asian Market Eatery is one of two that opened just last week — Duong says she expects good things. “There’s so much Vietnamese and Thai around, but they’re all successful. There’s room for everybody,” she says.