The tubers we had after our bunker crawl at Củ Chi was simply not enough to sustain us for the rest of the day. We hopped back on the tour bus and eagerly poured out onto the sidewalk, ready to be led to lunch at Nhà hàng Ngon.
Nhà hàng Ngon is a charming Vietnamese restaurant housed in what used to be a French villa. You enter through a leafy arch of trees and shrub-lined paths. Fairy lights sway gently in the warm air.
The building is painted in a warm, canary yellow with tailored, white borders accentuating the arches. Seating ranges between cafeteria-style–with rows on rows of tables–to elevated terraces with cloth canopies draped overhead. A courtyard with reflection pool sits in the center of the restaurant.
Along the perimeter of the restaurant are the food stalls where dishes are made to order. You are handed a small piece of paper, which is stamped when you place an order at the food stall. Sort of like dim sum, but instead of carts of food coming to you, you walk around and shop for the food you want.
While the options were bountiful, it was largely vegetarian-unfriendly. Plenty of grilled seafood and skewered meats to go around, however. There was even escargot!
We were seated on the second floor–my mom and I had our own “vegetarian” table. our first dish was some tofu Gỏi cuốn [summer rolls] stuffed with carrots, vermicelli, lemongrass, and scallions. A peanut dipping sauce came on the side.
Next was a plate of steamed vegetables: okra, carrots, squash, string beans, broccoli and cauliflower. No seasoning, just plain vegetables.
Then came the bowl of yellow curry with mushroom, eggplant, basil, mint, tofu, and some stewed veggie skewered “meats”. And a baguette for dipping into the curry, of course. This was an exciting departure from the plate of veggies; however, the curry was a tad salty. The baguette was warm and fresh, but dry. Whether this was done purposefully so they could complement each other, I do not know.
Rotating waiters would drift by the table to refill your beautifully refreshing glass of iced lemongrass tea. Sweet just the right amount.
I never expected to see so much use of faux meat in vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine. Our next dish was vegetable pho. There were veggie fish balls, konjac, fried bean curd sheets, fried tofu cubes, an assortment of veggies–pickled and fresh–, and some shallots and scallions to top it off. The soup was flavorful enough (but had an MSG taste to it), and the noodles were pretty good.
For dessert we had Chè Ba Màu, or “Three Color Dessert”. A drink with pudding as its base, with green jelly, grass jelly, and some coconut jelly layered on top of each other. A wash of slightly sweetened coconut milk tops off the icy drink. This was so delicious and refreshing! Loved the variety of textures you work through as you scoop out the different jellies and beans and pudding.
Overall I really enjoyed my meal at Nhà hàng Ngon. In all honesty I can’t say there was a dish that stood out or that I can remember absolutely, but I still look fondly back on this meal as one of the most enjoyable I had in Vietnam.