It all began with a less than satisfying trip to the Motor Vehicle Commission in Randolph. It ended with a more than satisfying Vietnamese meal at a Morris Plains hidden gem.
A worker at the MVC denied me a New Jersey driver’s license because my nickname — rather than my legal name — was listed on my utility bill used to prove my legal residence. A dispiriting trip home on Route 10 changed drastically after having a chance to sample Trung Nguyen’s banh mi — and more — at his OoLaLa! Vietnamese Kitchen.
Nguyen, who has lived in the towns of Parsippany and Morris Plains for over two decades, opened this bright, clean and casual spot in February 2015. His menu covers the range of Vietnamese meal standards — pho (a rice noodle soup), banh mi (the traditional Vietnamese sandwich), com (rice-based dishes) as well as a slew of side dishes and vegetarian selections.
After arriving in the U.S. in 1984, Nguyen worked in software architecture for three decades until he decided to focus on his love of traditional Vietnamese cooking. “Simply put, it’s been a dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember,” he said.
And the food speaks for itself.
The Sour Pho (shrimp in spiced sweet and sour seafood broth) features a clean and complex broth base with a generous portion of shrimp. Vegetarians will also be spoiled; the veggie pho broth has a “comfort food” taste and ideal for the upcoming cooler temperatures.
The rotisserie chicken banh mi was a standout. Nguyen’s pickled veggies complement the cilantro and jalapeños. The traditional sandwich pairs well with their Vietnamese iced coffee — which doesn’t fall prey to being overly sweetened. The kitchen also serves an array of milk teas with choobee jelly.
The summer rolls are both nimble and fresh, however, the sticky and sweet tamarind chicken wings are a must.
When Nguyen takes a break from food preparations in the kitchen, he’s a common presence in the dining area, serving and checking in with his customers. The place has a decidedly low-key, family-owned feeling.
While Nguyen has a love for all his dishes, the OoLaLa! Spicy Pho is his favorite, “mostly because it takes the most dedication to make the broth,” he said. “You’ve got to balance the spiciness with an aroma that’s distinct from the other kinds of pho we’ve got.”
OoLaLa! Vietnamese Kitchen
Where: 2569 NJ 10 East, Galleria 10 Plaza, Morris Plains
When: Mondays-Thursdays: 10am-9pm; Fridays-Saturdays: 10am-10pm; Sundays: 10am-8pm
Contact: 862-260-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org