Tuesday, April 24, 2007

HCM City restaurants review

Quan An Ngon

Last year I didn't make it to Quan An Ngon restaurant (138 D Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1, Tel: 829 9449), this time I was prepared to give it a try despite the fact that I was intimidated by the beautiful ornament and the crowd waiting in line trying to get in. Althrough english menus are provided, it's still difficult to image what's in a Vietnamese pancake without a photo. You can have your waiter give you a tour around the outside corridor where individual food stalls make their specialities whereas bars serving all kinds of beverages are set in the center of this 2 level restaurant.

I was lucky that it didn't take long to get a table, the restaurant was packed before 18:00. After a tour of each station I ordered a grill squid, grill chicken, green papaya salad, dry pho with deep fried spring rolls, beer, and the highly recommend Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake stuffed with prawns, pork and been sprouts) , Che Suong Sa Hot Luu (jelly, water chestnut, tapioca pears and coconut milk) for only 173,000 Vietnamese Dong. The food was delicious except that the dry pho didn't have too much taste, I guess the dry pho I found in Tainan is modified to fit local taste.

Pho 2000

Pho 2000 stands out from the glowering Pho 24, a franchise that is growing rampantly worldwide, because of a visit by the former United States president Bill Clinton in the year 2000. Despite food stalls on the Ben Thanh Market street and a pho 24 only 15 meters away, pho 2000 still manages to attract customers (both foreigners and locals) for a bowl of rice noodles. Pho Bo (beef noodle soup, 23,000 Dong) is always my first choice. Like everywhere else, a raw beef noodle soup is made of medium-well pho topped with onions, cilantro, green onions and slices of raw beef. Boiled flavorful broth is then poured into the bowl turning all ingredients well-done on the way from the kitchen to your table. Pho is served with a side dish of bean sprouts, limes, spikes of basil, and sliced chili. Do not underestimate the power of the side dish, without squeezing lime juice in to pH balance the soup nor slices of chili to intensify the flavor, the noodle soup would never taste as good. Despite the name Pho 2000, there are other dishes such as spring roll, spaghetti and rice etc. on the menu. Photos of each dish are hanging on walls, a nice way to whet your appetite.

Food stalls around the Ben Thanh Market

18:00, the bustling Ben Thanh Market is closing for business but it doesn't stop people from coming to the night market on the street around the Ben Thanh Market that is suiting up for business. Unlike many street food stalls in the other areas, clean tables, lovely fragrances and spectacular live cooking shows in this night market will blow off your concern of hygiene and crack down your last fence for diet project. Some of the stalls even have uniforms and table cloths. English menus are provided in every stall despite the fact that some of them can't make the order in english for you.

Presentation is my way to choose a restaurant. Prawns in a coconut which is placed in a bowl filled with sterno at the bottom. The dish is served with fire which serves not only as fancy presentation but also as catalyst that blends the unique fragrance of coconut into prawns and brings the sweetness of the prawns to a higher level.

Xoi Phong (Swelled sticky rice, 28,000 Dong) is an interesting dish that is made by a bowl of sweet sticky rice. It's amazing to see how a bowl of cooked sticky rice can swell up and become a hollow rice ball after a few minutes' turning and pressing in hot oil. The ball is served to your table first just to open your eyes and the waiter will take it away and cut it into pieces for you. It didn't taste as crunchy as I expected but is worth ordering just to see how it's made. I filmed it for you, click on the youtube link below.

Grill 69

I went by Grill 69 (275H Pham Ngu Lao, District 1, Tel: 8367936) one day and was attracted by the bright neon light banner: Grill 69--The Essence of Meat and the clean looking interior. Those BBQ photos on the wall of the entrance provoked my craving for a nice BBQ meal. The restaurant displays raw meats in a transparent freezer at the entrance so that you can see the quality of those meats. Like many houses in Vietnam the tunnel house (so called because of the narrow frontage and long rooms) makes the restaurant look even smaller and crowded. My waiter took me to the roof top where tables were set under the stary sky. Without walls and obstacles frequent breeze eased the heat of day and created a nice ambiance. So how was the food? Well, simply put, the Grill 69 does basic barbecue meat dishes well at very reasonable prices but it could be better.

Lion Brewery & Restaurant

Right next to the 5 stars hotel Caravelle, Lion Brewery & Restaurant (11C Lam Son Square, District 1, Tel: 823-8514 or 82-5944, opening hours: 10:00-23:00 ) provides a cozy and spacious dinning environment with their various collections of 5 stars beer and dishes.

Two giant brass vats behind the bar grab your attention as soon as you enter and a big flatscreen TV dangles from a side wall. Experienced German experts brew three varieties of Pilsener draught beer using natural spices, rice germ and herbs imported from the famous Bamberg region in Germany. Variety of German theme dishes such as german sausage (40,000 Dong) and Grilled salted German pork knuckle (99,000 Dong) etc. are available to go with authentic German beer.

Restaurants on Google Map

Quan An Ngon, Pho 2000, Pho 24, Food stalls around the Ben Thanh Market, Grill 69, Lion Brewery & Restaurant

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