What do Cruel Intentions 2, Saved by the Bell: The College Years, and The Pauly D Project all have in common? They’re all incontrovertible proof that spinoffs and sequels rarely fulfill the high expectations set by the original works whose legacy they seek to continue. Still, when it was announced two summers ago that Nine Roses Cafe would be opening in the French Quarter, expectations were high for the offshoot location of the much-beloved Hoa Hong Nine Roses in Gretna, where multi-generational families circle around tables overflowing with grilled quail, thin slices of nearly raw beef marinated in lemon, and hot plates for self-searing squid to be wrapped in spring rolls.
You won’t find duck porridge, eggplant with garlic sauce, or many of the other delicacies served at the flagship, but Nine Roses Cafe offers a casual and satisfying option for phonatics seeking the flavors of Vietnam in the Vieux Carré. The pared-down menu includes classic vermicelli bowls and rice plates, along with restorative bowls of pho with the most basic carnivore options (flank steak, brisket, and meatballs). Thankfully, the sumptuous morsels of chargrilled pork lost none of their flavor on their migration across the mighty Mississippi, and you should seize every opportunity presented to include these savory and slightly sweet pieces of porcine perfection in your order. Just forgive the steamed florets of broccoli and cauliflower served alongside.
Two new offerings at Nine Roses Cafe not found in Gretna are steamed bun “sliders” (better known as bao) and banh mi sandwiches—crisp and airy baguettes slathered with aioli and layered with a classic assortment of cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon, julienned cucumbers and, of course, more pork.
Perhaps the most endearing characteristic of the café is the setting on Exchange Alley. Tourists regularly stop for selfies in front of the picturesque French Quarter scenery with patrons in the background sipping bubble tea and squirting Sriracha through clouds of steam wafting from their bowls. It’s a far cry from the ambiance of the Westbank, but not every sequel can stay completely true to the original.
620 Conti Street, Mon–Sat 11a–9p, (504) 324-9450, ninerosesrestaurant.com