Monday, September 26 2016

VietNamNews

May Taste, high up on the Umami scale

Update: July, 10/2016 - 09:00
Pork and lemongrass: you’ll be licking your fingers clean after this one. VNS Photo Edward Dalton
Viet Nam News

A quick glance down the list of reviews on TripAdvisor makes for some promising reading. “A hidden gem” declares one, “a slice of heaven” professes another, while one even brazenly declares it the “best food in all of Việt Nam”. With a seemingly invulnerable five-star rating and so many rapturous evaluations, you might arrive at May Taste expecting to find a Michelin-starred chef at the helm of an elaborately decorated restaurant where the sommeliers outnumber the customers two-to-one. Fortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Opened by Hương Nguyễn in May 2014 (hence the name), the understated simplicity of this restaurant is one of its two greatest features. The other half of its success was built on the back of Hương’s passion for creating and sharing her cooking with as many people as possible. The restaurant is managed by Hương’s sister, Giang Nguyễn. The passion for cooking clearly runs in the family, as Giang beams with pride when she speaks of how much she loved to learn how to cook, often spending time in the kitchen with her sister to exchange and develop new ideas.

May Taste: lively exterior colour is hard to miss. — VNS Photo Edward Dalton

My first experience of May Taste came shortly after it opened. The friendliness and enthusiasm I experienced that day has somehow endured and thrived in a culture where shouting em ơi and barking an order without even looking up at the woefully paid server is the archetype of Vietnamese restaurant interactions. 

The young staff working there today are a sublime example of how good service can make or break a meal. Every guest is welcomed at the entrance with a smile, and the good manners and apparent joy at serving the customer is evidenced throughout the visit.

Setting an example from the top, Hương, and more recently Giang, strive to make sure every customer is satisfied. Whatever the request, the staff will bend over backwards to ensure needs are met, be it for an allergy or simply a request for more or less of a certain ingredient in a sauce. The results speak for themselves, as many of the customers I encounter are regulars who know the managers by name and endeavour to introduce May Taste to as many friends and visitors as possible.

The décor of the restaurant is homely, with the bright flowers and rustic paintings creating a welcoming atmosphere. It feels equally suited to a pleasant evening out with your significant other or a lively social brunch with friends, colleagues or the whole family. The solitary outside table is flanked by yet more flowers, and makes for a great place to sit with an iced coffee watching the world glide past.

Fried rice in a pineapple: a unique dish with strong savoury tones. — VNS Photo Edward Dalton

Every good meal has to start with good ingredients, so May Taste sources many of its vegetables from its own organic farm just around the corner. As this is a restaurant which prides itself on a menu in which the vegan and vegetarian dishes are more than just options, it seemed appropriate that I start off my meal with a meatless dish.

I began with the mysteriously named Secret Garden of Eggplants (VNĐ120,000). What arrived at the table was as much a work of art as anything hanging from the walls. Nestled amongst a plate of ornately arranged leaves were three tomatoes and an eggplant, each stuffed with the same delicious filling, boasting a rich flavour and soft, satisfying texture. Giang is guarded about the exact recipe, telling me it contains a variety of minced vegetables and tofu. From the taste, I deduced there is at least mushroom, onion and eggplant, flavoured with sesame and cinnamon. Highly recommended.

Secret Garden of Eggplants: tastes as good as it looks. — VNS Photo Edward Dalton

As enjoyable as the vegetables were, I still needed meat to prevent myself from going home in an insufferably foul mood, so I ordered the rolled pork and lemongrass (VNĐ100,000). Happily, I was not disappointed at abandoning my regular dishes, and found a new favourite. The thin slices of lean pork were skewered by spears of lemongrass, with the fragrant citrus flavour punching its way through the savoury gravy on which the meat rested.

Although most orders are accompanied by complimentary rice, salad and soup, my appetite takes something rather inhuman to satisfy it. With that in mind, I went for a double dose of carbohydrates and decided to try the fried rice with pork and shrimp served in a pineapple (VNĐ115,000). The dish was a far cry from the drier nước mắm-centric cơm rang dishes found in bia hơi restaurants. The texture is unique, with the rice retaining more moisture than is usually permitted. Mixed in with sesame seeds and flavoured with soy sauce, it’s a dish high-up on the umami scale.

This is a restaurant that can serve as both a daily dining option for locals and foreign residents, or as a fine example of what Vietnamese food can be to tourists. Without breaking the bank for customers, it showcases the kind of flavours and service which will continue to help further elevate Hà Nội as one of the great food capitals of the world. — VNS

Name: May Taste

Address: 18C Đặng Thai Mai Street, Tây Hồ District, Hà Nội

Telephone: 04 3718 8273

Bookings / Delivery: Yes / Yes

Comments: Small Vietnamese restaurant in Tây Hồ District with a large range of vegetarian and vegan options. Open daily from 9am to 10pm. Cash payments only.

 

 

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