Chef Thien Ngo spent seven years at Fork in Old City before he announced he was retiring and would move back to Vietnam.

Weeks after he stepped away from the stove in late January, he resurfaced with assistant Jose Leon at Coquette, a bistro on the Queen Village/Bella Vista border. The mission was to add a Vietnamese-Thai influence to Cary Neff's French menu.

Now Ngo is gone.

Neff said he asked Ngo about a money matter on March 21. Ngo never showed up for work the next day -- and has not since. Neff says he is unable to reach him by cell phone. Ngo did not return my messages, either. Friends in the biz say they have not heard from him.

Meanwhile, Leon -- who Neff said was doing most of the cooking anyway -- is still in the kitchen.