Lunch with… Rex Smith @ Quang’s Vietnamese Bistro in Troy
Rex Smith, Editor of Times Union, and I headed to downtown Troy on a steamy 90° day for lunch at Quang’s Vietnamese Bistro, one of Troy’s latest culinary offerings. The weather, together with the aroma of the stocks cooking in the back of the restaurant, gave it the feel of Saigon on 3rd Street.
“When I came here (Capital Region) in 1987, I was a political writer for Newsday. I moved up from downstate, Marion and I got married in ’89,” said Smith. “ I took over as Editor of the Times Union in 2002. Most of my dining out back then was for business, but there wasn’t much of an “adventure” with restaurants here then.”
We sat in the small dining room while owner/chef Quang Tran, filling the role of both Chef and waitstaff, split his time between the kitchen and the front of the house. The front of the restaurant was a convenience store with Asian snacks and goodies. The idea of a “bodega”, a combination store and restaurant has come to Troy with an Asian twist.
“Back in those days, there was really only one real good Chinese restaurant way out in Colonie. The rest of the time it was mostly Italian. Café Capriccio was the place! Who doesn’t love THAT place? Troy didn’t yet have the artistic influence it has today.”
With that, Quang brought us Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce, and we began to settle in.
Smith went on to say, “Then Troy began to change, and interesting things began to happen. The Arts Center and lots of storefront businesses started driving a downtown business community. Market Block Books was a big part of that.”
We made short work of the spring rolls, light, fresh, and perfectly rolled. No sooner had we finished when Quang reappeared with our entrees.
The beef pho and soy-glazed chicken vermicelli were excellent. With pho, the stock is the thing, and it takes time, at least 24 hours for the beef, and 12 hours for the chicken, but that kind of attention to detail and patience has its rewards.
After Rex made his goodbyes, Quang and I sat and chatted over Vietnamese Iced Coffee as his boys played behind the counter.
“Coming to Troy was an absolute accident in my life. I come from San Francisco, California, my wife is from Niskayuna, and she expressed that she was upset not to spend these last years with her Grandmother. I said fine but after 2 years we’re going back. In about a year and a half, her Grandmother passed, and when the 2 years were up, I’d fallen in love with Troy!”
Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine, founders of Peck’s Arcade where Quang worked, lobbied hard for him to take the leap into a restaurant. Jinah Kim, the owner of Sunhee’s Farm and Kitchen, was opening the convenience store that makes up the front of the restaurant and invited Quang to use the space in the back.
“Later that week I had flown to Chicago, and all I could think of on the flight was the proposition she gave me, and I kind of felt the universe was giving me a restaurant on a platter! As soon as I got off the plane I texted her, after one conversation in October it was settled and we opened in January,” Quang said. “The recipes are all from my family!”
The menu may be modest in size, but it reads like the Greatest Hits of Vietnamese Cuisine. It’s a family affair, Quang’s nephews man the kitchen with him, this is not to be missed.
Quang’s Vietnamese Bistro
88 3rd Street, Troy, New York 12180
Mon. and Tues closed
Wed 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Thurs. – Sat. 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Sundays 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM