Ho Chi Minh City Restaurants – Ngon 138
I would hazard a bet that most tourists to Ho Chi Minh City that have been on any kind of cultural tour would have visited this elegant District 1 restaurant at 138 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, just across the park from Reunification Palace. It’s in a perfect position to have lunch or dinner on a walking tour around the main sites in Districts 1 and 3. If you walked right on past thinking the opulent surroundings would set you back a small fortune to have a meal there, then I’m afraid you missed out on an extremely reasonable way to experience Vietnam’s delicacies from all around the country, many of which are not available on the average tourist restaurant menu.
Don’t worry, I’m still on my mission to find the best Street food in Vietnam but sometimes, after a hard weekend at the office, a girl just has to spoil herself, right?
The first thing you notice as you enter is the fusion of french colonial architecture melded effortlessly with Asian ambiance. Huge pillars, large trees and water sprays misting over the courtyard creates a atmospheric dining experience as you enter. Carvings, artwork and subtle lighting from lanterns adds to the mystique once inside. The restaurant is large enough to cater for big groups and yet intimate enough for a romantic dinner for two. Unless you make an effort to notice, the graceful surroundings belies the bustling efforts of the staff efficiently catering to the hungry hoards.
If I have one criticism of the place, the menu is almost tooo extensive. Unless you are dining with a local who can make recommendations it will take you at least 10 minutes, possibly more, to read from start to finish. The range of food on offer is delightfully varied and it’s almost too hard to choose. You can sample specialties from all around Vietnam from Hanoi down to the Mekong and everywhere in between.
Thankfully one of the wait staff came to the rescue. Many (if not all) of them speak English (and quite possibly several other languages) and all know the menu inside out. Tim and I had chosen a selection of smaller dishes to share, rather than one large meal each. When I got to the fifth item I was going to order our waitress very subtly told me we probably had quite enough ordered at that point and maybe we should wait until we’d eaten all that before we ordered any more. After stuffing our faces and still not finishing everything, I was very thankful of her advice.
Anyway, here’s a look at the selection we had. Maybe they’re not to everyone’s taste but we like to experiement and try different things. There’s plenty of standard dishes on the menu if you’re a bit squeamish of things that wriggle rather than walk.
- Snails stuffed with minced pork, dipped in ginger fish sauce (Oc Buou Nhoi Thit) 95 000 VND
- Deep fried tofu with salted eggs (Dau Hu chien trung muoi) 65 000 VND
- Steamed rice pancakes with shredded pork skin (Banh Beo Bi) 45 000 VND
- Fried vermicelli with fermented pork rols and grilled pork (Bun thit nuong cha gio) 55 000 VND
- Tomato-crab rice noodles soup with snails (Bun rieu oc) 48 000 VND and
- 5 Saigon Special beers.
Total price 448 000 VND which is the equivalent of about $21 USD
With a few more people you could really give the menu a workout and sample a larger range. The hotpots looked great (yes, we were peeking at the neighbours!) and were pretty good value at less than $15 USD for a large one.
The service was fantastic, the food delicious and the beers cold. Add to that a beautiful setting and you have all the makings of a great value, authentic Vietnamese experience at one of the best Ho Chi Minh City restaurants
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