Wednesday, November 14 2018

VietNamNews

Nam Long, the reclusive dining haven

Update: June, 24/2018 - 09:00
Full spread: A table is prepared for a group of Korean tourists. — VNS Photos Mỹ Hà
Viet Nam News

by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

Hội An is a place where I only find good food. From the street vendors to traditional eateries and seafood delicacies, the food ranges from simply good, perfectly cooked, to great fare that makes you want to come back. When we returned to Hội An recently, we had to visit Nam Long, a secret garden restaurant located by the graceful Cổ Cò river.

A trip to Nam Long is a treat in itself.

A little winding path led to the main villa and restaurant, and the location is known for the fresh air and view. The setting was perfect: a large brick yard under flowering ramparts, beside our table, a beautiful bougainvillea tree in full bloom. It looked like heaven on earth. 

Foliage: The winding path leads to the villa and big dining hall.

Nam Long serves traditional Vietnamese food. Something you can make and have at home, but the food, decoration and service was at restaurant level.

First we had Gỏi bưởi tôm thịt, grapefruit salad with shrimp and pork (VNĐ90,000). The sauce was delicious and the grapefruit was juicy and lightly sour and sweet. Traditionally in Huế, this is a salad of shredded roasted dried squid with grapefruit pulp. The grapefruit had to be peeled and seeded so that it mixes well with the squid and sauce. This dish had been altered slightly with chunks of grapefruit and shrimp instead of squid, but it still tasted good.

Since we really like shrimps, next we had steamed shrimps in coconut juice (VNĐ180,000). This is our favourite shrimp dish but here at Nam Long, the chef had added a special coconut-milk sauce as a dip. It tasted more buttery than the usual salt and pepper with lime juice dipping sauce.

Fresh: Shrimps steamed in coconut juice.

At Nam Long, the overwhelming feeling is that you’re at home away from home. So we opted for some homey dishes. We had Bò lúc lắc, stir fried beef cubes (VNĐ180,000) with potatoes and bell peppers. Supposedly this dish is a full meal on its own. But the beef cubes were so tender, we could have it with rice as the main dish.

The main dish, Cá kho tộ, caramelised fish in a clay pot (VNĐ160,000) arrived when we were already half full. To be honest, the fish was the most disappointing dish. The caramel sauce was not what it’s supposed to be. We thought that Nam Long clientele were mostly tourists so the chef had modified the recipe a little bit to cater to visitors. But this dish, to our local palate, was not as good as it should be.

The final dish, Canh chua cá, or sour fish soup southern style (VNĐ160,000), restored our faith. The fish was tender, the sauce sour sweet from the tamarind paste, the bean sprouts, pineapple, okras and tomatoes blended well. Each region in Việt Nam has its own style of sour fish soup. The north usually cooks it with fermented sticky rice and the south makes it sour with tamarind sauce which is more sour sweet than just sour. In some regions like the northern mountains, people cook fish with sour bamboo shoots, which is delicious.

Sweet and sour: Grapefruit salad with fresh shrimps.

Nam Long managed to maintain a tranquil atmosphere even when much work and preparation went into the cooking process. This was a compliment.

In many busy Vietnamese restaurants, when they are crowded, everything becomes intense, waiters rush around in a hurry and the kitchen is full of shouting. It is busy like a beehive and has its own charm.

But here in Nam Long, everything stayed quiet and calm and efficient. And we just loved it. We will definitely come back, again and again. To have home food, and maybe, just to check if the manager has brought back the fishing net, set in the middle of the yard under a light bulb like it used to be many years ago.

This time, we didn’t see it. — VNS

Nam Long Restaurant 103 Cửa Đại St., Hội An

Tel: 0510-3923-723

Comment: Great food in a fine dining ambience

 

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