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Central Vietnam Restaurants

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Ancient Hue
4/4/8 Lane 35
Pham Thi Lien Street
Tel: 84 5 459 0356

Finding this Hue restaurant down a quiet lane near Thien Mu Pagoda is an adventure in itself. The five-acre compound feels like a step back in time to a Nguyen dynasty palace with a centerpiece open-air dining room. The raised, wooden pavilion quotes the lines of the Citadel's Peace Palace with imperial touches like a lotus pond, bronze urns, and red silk tablecloths. The menu mixes Mediterranean and Vietnamese flavors resulting in dishes like steak with grilled tomatoes, zucchini, and couscous-stuffed bananas. Save room for the homemade ice cream, especially fruit flavors like mango and mangosteen, then peruse the on-site art gallery housed in an antique home.

Open daily 9 am to 11 pm.

Apsara Restaurant
222 Tran Phu Street
Da Nang
Tel: 84 511 561 409

Da Nang's most upscale restaurant is located in a converted home just a short three-block stroll from the Museum of Cham Sculpture. The kitchen specializes in seafood, with everything from crabmeat and asparagus soup to lobster sashimi and squid steamed with ginger. There are tables in the outdoor garden, but the affluent Vietnamese customers tend to prefer the multilevel dining room where a four-piece band plays traditional standards and covers of American classics. Day-of reservations suggested.

Open daily 10 am to 2 pm and 4:30 to 9:30 pm.

Brother's Café
27–29 Phan Boi Chau Street
Hoi An
Tel: 84 510 914 150

Brother's century-old colonial building is the loveliest setting in all of Hoi An—and that's saying a lot in a city that's a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make a beeline through the street-front bar to the lantern-lit garden, and request a table for two on the patio overlooking the Thu Bon River. A favorite among independent travelers, the café also draws a smattering of damn-the-budget backpackers with an appreciation for fine food and cocktail glasses wrapped in banana leaves. Set and à la carte menus carry a range of spicy pan-Asian dishes, including sautéed beef with chile and lemongrass, as well as "white rose,'' the shrimp-stuffed rice-flour dumplings that are a Hoi An specialty.

Open daily 10 am to 11 pm.

Cargo Club Restaurant and Hoi An Patisserie
107–109 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street
Hoi An
Tel: 84 510 910 489

Trinh Diem Vy has been feeding backpackers since opening Mermaid Restaurant near Hoi An's central market in 1991, the Mesozoic era of Vietnamese tourism. Cargo Club, her third restaurant, serves travelers who are homesick for pizza, pasta, or baguette sandwiches. But her light, local fare, such as spring rolls stuffed with grilled pork, green banana, Asian basil, and star fruit, is better. The location in a breezy riverside shophouse makes this a good luncheon call, especially when a slice of passion fruit cheesecake arrives for dessert.

Open daily 8 am to 11 pm.

Lac Thien Restaurant
6 Dinh Tien Hoang Street
Tel: 84 5 452 7348

Neither the Tet Offensive nor decades of anticapitalist rule could close this simple shopfront eatery outside the Citadel's southeastern Ngan Gate. Since 1965, owner Le Van Trung's family has served banh khoai and other Hue delicacies at nontourist prices. Aside from the tiled floor, the decor is zero frills: plastic chairs, utilitarian tables, a few calendars and clocks on the plastered walls. But nothing on the large menu costs more than 25,000 Vietnamese dong (about $1.50). Coffee will set you back all of 25 cents, making Lac Thien ideal for breakfast before a sightseeing assault on the Citadel, just across the moat. The restaurant is flanked by a pair of similar cafés, Lac Thanh and Lac Tung, both run by other family members.

Open daily 8 am to 11 pm.

Mango Rooms
111 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street
Hoi An
Tel: 84 510 910 839

Vietnamese, expats, and travelers all sit down to sup at this tastefully funky, 100-seat restaurant along Hoi An's riverfront, a lively place with brightly colored walls and even bolder cuisine. Chef Duc Tran escaped Saigon by boat as a child and later lived in Malaysia, Texas, New Orleans, and Mexico. The result is his singular "refugee fusion" cuisine: baguette slices topped with shrimp mousse and mango-coconut chutney; chicken marinated in lemongrass, garlic, and curry, then pan-seared and served with a pineapple-tomato-ginger sauce. The food defies categorization, making it the perfect reflection of Hoi An's multicultural history. Ask for a seat on the second-floor balcony overlooking the river, and watch the fishing boats head out while tucking into El Superfly—giant grilled prawns with a lemon-butter-and-rum sauce.

Open daily 9 am to midnight.

Mediterraneo d'Hue
7 Ben Nghe Street
Tel: 84 5 481 9849

Asian-style lanterns may hang outside, but the opera music is a dead giveaway that Leonardo Fazioli is serving Italian, and only Italian, at this new 60-seat spot on the Perfume River. Though the decor inside the tile-roofed prewar building is a jumble of nautical sketches and hill-tribe textiles, the food is heartily old-world, including dishes like risotto with sausage and onion, and spaghetti with clams.

Open daily 8 am to 11 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.