Tasty Western cuisine at inviting prices

Update: June, 22/2014 - 16:43
Colourful: Country-style decor with warm lights create a friendly and cosy atmosphere at Oliu Do restaurant. — VNS Photos Xuan Hiep
A Vietnamese-German engineer in HCM City has opened a restaurant serving large portions of dishes that has diners coming back for more. Thanh Thuy decides to find out why.

From the moment I entered Oliu Do (Red Olive) until I finished my meal, I could not imagine that the restaurant owner was an engineer with no training in cooking or the restaurant industry.

Opened about five months ago, the restaurant, which offers delicious Western food at reasonable prices, has acquired a faithful clientele, I quickly learned.

As a student who must live on a tight budget, I was pleased that I could sample Western dishes at such reasonable prices.

Located on busy Ly Chinh Thang Street, close to downtown HCM City, the restaurant's colourful red and yellow sign made it easy to find.

It was a scorching-hot day when we arrived as temperatures had risen to 36 degrees Celsius, but as soon as my friend and I entered Oliu Do, we were impressed with the cosy setting.

Decorated in a country style with pastel furniture, the space was warmly lit, creating a relaxing ambience.

While we ate, we listened to Western pop songs and looked at interesting paintings on the wall as well as mirrors of various shapes.

The staff, who could speak some English, smiled graciously but they seemed inexperienced in serving food, possibly because the restaurant had recently opened.

The restaurant's owner, Huynh Phi Lan, who lived in Germany for nearly 32 years, says he has a passion for Western food.

Five months ago, he quit his job as an automobile designer and then opened the small restaurant in HCM City.

"Cooking, like designing an automobile, requires the person to be meticulous and have a true love for the products he creates," he told us.

Tender, succulent: Beefsteak smothered in cheese sauce and served with chips, bread and salad is a speciality of the restaurant.

Lan introduced us to the extensive menu, which consists of dishes made from beef, chicken and pork, as well as pasta. Most of the main courses are served with chips, salad and bread.

I was surprised by the low prices, which ranged from VND32,000 to 188,000 (US$1.5-9).

Although all the meat is purchased in Viet Nam, the spices are brought from Germany by his friends to ensure authenticity.

Drinks like fruit juices and beer were reasonably priced, and a glass of wine was only VND48,000 ($2.2). But we opted for ice tea, a typical drink of local residents.

I started out with the beefsteak with cheese sauce (VND88,000 or $4) while my friend, who loves chicken, chose the fried chicken wings plus salad and chips (VND58,000 or under $3).

The dishes required a long time to make, but it was worth it.

"It's much more delicious than the fried chicken of Kentucky," my friend said as she took a bite. "The chicken is tender and not greasy. It has a great smell, and is covered in hot, crispy flour."

Later, I was told that the spice to marinate the wings had been imported from Germany.

Textures: Tender sausages spiced with black pepper, a nice complement to the tart tomato sauce.

For my dish, two cucumbers cut in a heart shape and carrots carved like flowers were a pretty addition to the main meal. On the side were chips, a salad, bread and a small bowl of tomato sauce.

As I cut into the meat, I discovered it was a tender, succulent, pink cut of beef. The rich, savoury cheese sauce, along with the sweet piping hot chips, complemented the meat beautifully.

Though I liked the chicken, my favorite meal was the gyros with tzatziki sauce, a Greek dish of sauteed pork served with shredded cabbage and chips for VND78,000 ($3.5).

The pork was seasoned with special spices from Greece, and the sauce made from yogurt, olive oil, chopped cucumbers and garlic.

Oliu Do restaurant

Address: 27 Ly Chinh Thang, Ward 8, District 3, HCM City

Tel: 08 62991926

Hours: Lunch: 10am - 2pm

Dinner: 4pm - 10pm

Prices: VND32,000 - 188,000 (US$1.5-9)

Dishes to try: Gyros with tzatziki sauce, beefsteak, sausages with curry sauce, fried chicken

Comment: delicious food, reasonable prices and friendly staff

I loved the way the marinated flavours of minced pork, the rich, tart taste of the yogurt, and the hot taste of onion and garlic blended in my mouth.

We also ordered German sausages in curry sauce plus salad, priced at only VND58,000 (nearly $3). Most of the restaurant's dishes contain olive oil and are topped with German chili powder.

Like the chicken, the sausages were tender and hot due to the pepper, which was offset by the tartness of the tomato sauce.

Lan told us that he buys sausages from a German friend who runs a restaurant in the coastal city of Nha Trang City in the central province of Khanh Hoa.

For dessert, I chose the strawberry ice cream (VND38,000 or under $2). It had a rich flavour, but my friend's chocolate ice cream was even better.

After finishing dessert, we were both too full to eat anything else for the rest of the day.

For its reasonably priced food, Oliu Do cannot be beat, and my friend and I both vowed to return to sample other delicious and affordable dishes. — VNS