By Thúy Hằng
To celebrate my mother’s birthday, we went on a mother-daughter trip to central Việt Nam recently, where we stayed at the newly opened Hoiana Hotel & Suites in Quảng Nam Province.
The property is part of the Hoiana, the first integrated resort in the central region, which also includes a golf course that was recently recognised as the “World’s Best New Golf Course 2020”.
PANORAMA: Rooftop restaurant and bar The Edge is the perfect place to enjoy endless sea views and a stunning sunset. Photo courtesy of Hoaina
On our first evening, we decided to have a “birthday dinner” at The Edge, on the 16th floor. The hotel staff suggested we enjoy the boundless sea views as well as the stunning sunset -- “a must when staying at the hotel”, they said.
The rooftop venue is a restaurant and bar featuring a long drinks list alongside a wide range of à la carte dishes. As we were there to celebrate my mother’s birthday, we had an “exclusive” dinner prepared especially for us by the hotel’s Executive Chef Đào Thạch.
A table with candlelight was set up for us by the pool so we could take in the sunset. It was a little on the windy side, though, so once night fell we headed inside the cosy, elegant interior, which is adorned by green plant walls.
Though I don’t drink alcohol, we had a reason to celebrate on that day. I was also convinced by the bartender when he said he had a cocktail featuring liquor from a local distillery, which uses local sugarcane.
THIRST QUENCHER: A cocktail mixed with rum made from local sugarcane. VNS Photo Thúy Hằng
The sweet yet slightly-bitter cocktail was quite aromatic, blending orange, pineapple, and rum together with a sprig of thyme for decoration.
Our special dinner then began, with “Pan-seared crab cake with chilli mayo and salmon roe”. Unlike crab cakes I’d tried before, which mostly had minced pork as the main ingredient, this was actually “real”. I could even see the flaky crab flesh inside.
REAL DEAL: Pan-seared crab cake with chilli mayo and salmon roe -- a genuine delight. VNS Photo Thúy Hằng
The chilli mayo was a great innovation from Chef Thạch. It wasn’t too creamy, like regular mayonnaise, but was subtle and carried a slight fragrance from indigenous chilli. The green-coloured sauce was also a perfect companion for the crab cake, which was pan-seared to perfection and retained its moisture.
For me, the mustard green sprouts on top of the cake were also a nice idea. The slight mustard flavour was perfect for the delicate taste of the crab. Apart from being a bit salty [I think that, compared with northern people, those in the central region like Chef Thạch prefer a stronger taste], the starter was perfect.
A native of Quảng Nam, Chef Thạch wants to present the culture of the central region through his food creations, by using local ingredients as well as special cooking methods.
His plan seemed a little clearer in the main course -- a duo of “Grilled Hội An Chicken” and “Slow-Roasted Grouper” served with steamed rice.
Explaining this creation, the chef said it was inspired by home-cooked dishes enjoyed by every Vietnamese household. “This is why it must be served with steamed rice,” he said.
The white fish was fresh and retained its firm texture and natural sweetness. Its flavour was enhanced by kho quẹt -- a caramelised sauce made from fish sauce that is very popular in the central and southern regions.
“I used a traditional method, from marinating to cooking, to prepare this dish,” he told us.
For the chicken dish, he used a free-range chicken because “its meat is firmer and less fatty”.
I told the staff I only wanted the fish part of the duo, not the chicken. But I was curious about its taste, so I asked my mother to cut off a little from hers.
It was tender with a golden-brown crispy skin -- proof it was grilled to perfection. An aromatic flavour was created by several herbs and spices, including the regional specialty, củ nén -- with a fingertip-sized onion, lemongrass, shallots, and pepper. The chicken was so good I regretted telling the staff I only wanted the fish.
PERFECT ENDING: The Mango Sago Pudding capped off a wonderful dinner. VNS Photo Thúy Hằng
Though I don’t really have a sweet tooth, when the last course, the “Mango Sago Pudding”, arrived on the table I couldn’t help but utter “Wow”. Its presentation was impressive, with different shades of yellow, from a slice of dried pineapple on top (which resembled a crown) to the mango sorbet and freshly diced mango.
“This is delicious,” I said after the first bite.
The subtle sorbet was mushy, the sago soft and a bit creamy as it was bathed in coconut milk, and the cake base crispy but not so sweet it took anything away from the other components. Every single ingredient was in harmony with the others and tickled the taste buds. For me, it was the “Star of the Dinner”.
I had another “Wow” moment when the waiter told me that the superb frozen treat was created by the hotel’s executive pastry chef Yannick Oppermann, who has worked at several Michelin-star restaurants around the world.
BY THE BEACH: The breathtaking views from The Edge and its cuisine and cocktail list redefine “happiness” and “pleasure”. Photo courtesy of Hoiana
At that moment, I again realised how lucky I am. Here I was, sharing a beautiful moment with my mother on her birthday, enjoying great food from the talented chefs at Hoiana. VNS
The Edge - Hoiana Hotel & Suites
Address: Tây Sơn Tây Hamlet, Duy Hải Commune, Duy Xuyên District, Quảng Nam Province
Tel: +84 (0) 23 5858 6999
Price: From VNĐ98,000 - 398,000 / dish.
Comments: Best view from a rooftop restaurant and bar I’ve ever experienced. Simple yet richly flavoured dishes made of fresh local ingredients. Enjoying the breathtaking ocean views while sipping on a cocktail from its long cocktail list provides a new definition of “happiness” and “pleasure”. And don’t forget to ask for a sweet treat from Executive Pastry Chef Yannick Oppermann.