|Harmonious: The new Quan An Ngon's decor was planned to create a restful and pleasing atmosphere for diners while they enjoy traditional dishes. — Photos Phong Van
|Favourite: Rice vermicelli soup with pork-legs
|Traditional: Salad roll with shrimp and pork
Quan An Ngon restaurant
Address: First floor, Building 25T2 Hoang Dao Thuy Street, Ha Noi
Tel.: (04) 35560866
Hours: 06:00 – 22:00
Comment: offers 200 different Vietnamese dishes at reasonable prices
A new restaurant opens to great fanfare and on all accounts lives up to its promise. Ha Nguyen
reports.We were invited to dine at Quan An Ngon's second restaurant in Ha Noi's most crowded apartment building in the new Trung Hoa Nhan Chinh urban zone.
Hundreds of guests had already dined at the restaurant's opening ceremony earlier in the week but on this night the place was still packed. Happily, as soon as we stepped through the door we had the immediate impression of clarity and fashionable simplicity: from the understated and fresh colour schemes to the breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding city. Even the crockery was harmonised with the rest of the decor, with the cracked green glaze mirroring the fresh emerald bamboo cross-hatching on the walls.
We wondered if the menu would be as impressive as the restaurant's first location at 18 Phan Boi Chau Street which opened in 2005.
Before being seated by the servers, guests may opt to walk around to peruse the food stalls but ordering is done at the table from a broad menu available in both English and Vietnamese. The offerings reflect some of Viet Nam's best-known regional specialities, and a few surprises. A veritable army of staff scuttle around assembling orders from the little stalls, and somehow the system seems to be extremely efficient.
After taking a walk around the 600sq.m restaurant, we took our seats and recognised that the menu was indeed extensive. Flicking through the pages, a wide variety of culinary delights enlivened with pictures passed before our eyes, including traditional Vietnamese dishes such as banh duc nong (rice cake made of rice flour and lime water), savoury grills and goi cuon (salad roll with shrimp&pork) and bun oc (rice vermicelli soup with snails) and numerous others.
"We offer different types of hot pot than you can find at our sister restaurant," restaurant owner Pham Bich Hanh told us, adding that if you can't decide what to eat from the hundreds of delicious and tasty options available, just share with a friend!
We began ordering, starting with my Quang (rice vermicelli soup with pork-legs – VND45,000 per dish), a mixed salad of fresh mango, shrimp and cuttle fish (VND78,000) and banh hoi nem nuong cuon banh trang (grilled pork balls with rice vermicelli served with rice paper&vegetables – VND88,000), tom chien mam xa ot (fried shrimp with lemongrass&chili - VND155,000 per dish). One of my friends posed the idea of tasting as many of the dishes as possible.
Running out of choices and racing the clock, the mandate changed from a leisurely sampling to a quest to satisfy hunger so we decided to settle for a couple of familiar fillers. Next came nem cua be, mixed crab and pork fried spring rolls. The generous portion was crispy, fragrant and light, comparable to its ‘authentic' streetside counterpart.
One friend was enthusiastic about the shrimp in his udon noodle with shrimp tempura soup but said that while the miso-teriyaki broth was good and filling, it wasn't particularly memorable.
After enjoying a series of dishes we decided on our final choice: hot pot. There's a treasure chest of ingredients to choose from including steamed miso and chicken, beef, live fish and vegetables, starting at VND300,000 per pot.
Hanh said she opened the new Quan An Ngon Restaurant due to consumer demand, explaining that hundreds of potential customers inside and outside the country, particularly diners from the new urban area, asked her to open a local spot.
The new restaurant includes seven rooms covered with roofs designed in the ancient Vietnamese style. The menu offers 200 dishes featuring cuisine from the country's three regions.
Le Manh Hai, a customer who sat near us, said his family, particularly his children, were very keen to enjoy Quan An Ngon's traditional dishes so they used to travel about 10km from the new urban area to Phan Boi Chau Street in downtown Ha Noi.
"From now on we can enjoy our favourite dishes at the new restaurant which is much closer to home. Maybe we'll hold a birthday party here," said Hai.
Frank Robert from Australia has an office in the Nhan Chinh New Urban Area and has been working in Viet Nam for years. He said Quan An Ngon was a wonderful place to experience most traditional Vietnamese dishes.
During our meal, my friends and I ordered 17 different dishes. They were all quite delicious and tasty. Our drinks were refilled before we knew we were thirsty and all in all the experience was pleasantly soothing, almost like visiting a spa.
The attentive waitresses made sure we had everything we needed and after our main courses we cleansed our palates with small scoops of green tea ice cream and bottomless glasses of hot green tea.
After a satisfying Vietnamese dining experience in the oasis of a noisy restaurant, we felt cleansed, revived and ready to take on the cold and wet which has been hovering over the capital for weeks. Our relatively short time at the restaurant was all about the ultimate enjoyment of a simple pleasure – delicious food. Cheers to that. — VNS