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Vietnam Restaurants

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Ancient Hue
4/4/8 Lane 35
Pham Thi Lien Street
Hue
Vietnam
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
Vietnam
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
Vietnam
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.

Café Lam
60 Nguyen Huu Huan
Hanoi
Vietnam

One of Hanoi's oldest cafés, this slightly musty one-room establishment is practically a historical monument. Its proprietor, Nguyen Lam, provided coffee and often loans to the city's impoverished artist community during the war, and rumor has it that he is sitting on an art collection now worth a fortune. He serves Vietnamese-style hot and iced coffee (with thick, sweet condensed milk) to a crowd of faithful regulars.

Café Moca
14-16 Nha Tho
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 4 825 6334

Run by American Jeff Richardson and his Vietnamese partner, Truong Viet Binh, Café Moca is a busy establishment near the city center. Seven varietal and blended coffees are served over the counter, while the menu has 16 types of coffee drinks, from double espresso and café latte to iced versions and even Indian spiced coffee (Starbucks, eat your heart out). The café is in a Sino-French building with marble tables, generous wooden armchairs, and vast windows looking out onto the street. Vietnamese, European, and Indian dishes are available as well as coffee.

Cargo Club Restaurant and Hoi An Patisserie
107–109 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street
Hoi An
Vietnam
Tel: 84 510 910 489
www.hoianhospitality.com/cargo.htm

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.

Cha Ca La Vong
14 Cha Ca
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 4 825 3929

This bare-bones eatery in the Old City market district has been around for more than a century. The service is monosyllabic and there are no napkins, only plastic-wrapped wipes. There is no menu, either, because the place serves only one dish. But that one dish—fried fish—is absolutely delicious. Each set of two to four diners gets a miniature charcoal brazier with a skillet filled with sizzling pieces of fish, tinted with turmeric. While the fish cooks, diners toss basil, dill, cilantro, and scallions into the pan then anoint the fish with various piquant condiments. The fish comes with sides of rice noodles and crushed peanuts. Beer and soft drinks are available.

Emperor
18B Le Thanh Tong
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 4 826 8801

If you don't get a chance to make it to Hué (some 300 miles away), go instead to this shrine to the imperial city's cuisine. Emperor may just be Hanoi's most beautiful restaurant, set in a villa with a two-story pagoda-style outdoor pavilion strung with twinkling lights. Hué specialties served here include a rice pancake stuffed with toothsome morsels of pork. Other main courses include savory eggplant with garlic served in a clay pot, and a delicious tangle of rice vermicelli with crabmeat, peppers, seaweed, and egg.

Green Tangerine
48 Hang Be Street
Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 825 1286

Customers who retreat from the retail hustle of Hang Be Street must feel they've stepped through some sort of Second Empire looking glass. The lengthy interior of this 1928 colonial house holds trompe l'oeil paintings, a motorcycle sidecar, wrought-iron café tables, and a central open-air atrium dripping with ivy. The French-with-a-twist menu brings an Asian edge to old-world recipes in dishes like salmon fillet in tamarind and red-wine sauce and a waffle with lemongrass and Provençal herbs. Not convinced? Try the green tea cheesecake, with a subtle jasmine perfume that complements the pistachio crust. The largely foreign clientele splits between expats and travelers.

Open daily 11 am to 11 pm.

Hoi An
11 Le Thanh Ton Street
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
Tel: 84 8 823 7694

This restaurant specializes in the intricate cuisine of the eponymous central coast town, which was influenced by progressive waves of settlers (Chinese and French). A delicious specialty is plump, buttery shrimp grilled in a banana leaf and dipped in a sauce of lime juice and salt. The cao lau is also superb: thin slices of pork, shrimp, and crumbled morsels of crunchy sesame cake tumbled on top of wide rice noodles, served with an aromatic bowl of marrow-bone broth.

KOTO
59 Van Mieu Street
Dong Da District
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 747 0337
www.koto.com.au/koto_hanoi.asp

Just across the street from the 1,000-year-old Temple of Literature, this teaching restaurant offers an educational opportunity for hundreds of Vietnamese—and a delicious, affordable lunch for customers. KOTO (the acronym stands for "Know One, Teach One") is the creation of Jimmy Pham, a Vietnamese-Korean raised in Australia, who founded the nonprofit restaurant to train disadvantaged youth and former street kids. The menu, which is sprinkled with inspirational quotes by Confucius and Dr. Albert Schweitzer, offers a broad range of Vietnamese dishes, including bun cha and nem tom (rice-paper rolls stuffed with prawns and herbs). KOTO is a popular lunch spot, but the four-story, 120-seat eatery can accommodate the crush. Photos of past KOTO grads hang from the walls of the busy ground floor, which has a mix of table and stool seating. For a more leisurely meal, climb the narrow staircase to the second-floor Temple Bar—which is outfitted with ceiling fans, muted lanterns, and long, low banquettes and cushions—and sip a Temple Tipple (Havana Club rum, lime, honey, and lemongrass) while sending gloating e-mail (Wi-Fi is free), or dine alfresco on the roof's Treetop Terrace.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 7 am to 10 pm, Mondays 7 am to 5 pm.

La
25 Ly Quoc Su Street
Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 928 8933

This ten-table find has everything a good bistro requires: a neighborhood following, innovative comfort food, terrific ambience, and moderate-enough prices to encourage repeat business. The small menu ranges from hearty German-style pork loin in a mustard sauce with braised sweet onions and mashed herbed potatoes to more Asian-inspired flavors, such as crab cakes with a piquant chile mayonnaise. A few Vietnamese dishes are also available. The wines are adjusted seasonally, as is the menu, since nearly every ingredient is sourced locally. The space, which features the woodblock prints of British artist Simon Redington, draws a steady stream of in-the-know expats and walk-in tourists on time-out from shopping at nearby Church Quarter boutiques such as Ipa-Nima and Mosaique.

Open daily 9:30 am to 11 pm.

La Camargue
191 Hai Ba Trung Street
District 3
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
Tel: 84 8 520 4888

After a 15-year downtown run, La Camargue moved one mile to the northwest, along the District 1–District 3 line, in early 2008. The longtime expat favorite didn't miss a beat. The villa-style ambience, with exposed rafters, roof tiles, and a greenhouse's worth of potted plants, echoes the original open-air space, though the address on a quiet lane is even more intimate. The loyal clientele fills the candlelit tables to dine on classic Continental fare like châteaubriand with foie gras or campanelle pasta with sliced pork in a creamy wild-mushroom sauce, as well as a few more inventive treats, such as duck confit samosas with a balsamic-vinegar-and-shallot dipping sauce. Service is attentive, yet unrushed. The new location is a bit out of the way for lunch, but perfect for dinner. Reservations are a must.

Open daily 11 am to 2 pm and 6 to 11 pm.

Lac Thien Restaurant
6 Dinh Tien Hoang Street
Hue
Vietnam
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.

La Habana
6 Cao Ba Quat
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
Tel: 84 8 829 5180

This lively Latin-themed restaurant and bar is a friendly District 1 gem: Think Sunday paella brunches; Cuban cigars for less than $8; pitchers of well-made mojitos; and 40-plus tapas on the menu, from classics like Serrano ham and melon to meatballs in a chile-tomato Cubano sauce. At night, shy types retreat to the open-air patio out back; everyone else puts on their salsa shoes. There are free dance lessons on Tuesdays, live music on Fridays, and a welcoming vibe daily. Any place with sombreros on the walls can't take itself too seriously.

Open daily 10 am to midnight.

Le Bordeaux
72 D2 Street
Binh Thanh District
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
Tel: 84 8 899 9831
www.restaurant-lebordeaux.com.vn

Tourists don't seem to know about this lovely two-story restaurant a ten-minute taxi ride from District 1's Lam Son Square. The city's affluent foodies leaf through the latest editions of Paris Match in the stylish ground-floor lounge and then climb the sweeping staircase for superbly plated, unapologetically French entrées like scallops "St. Jacques" casserole and duck confit with sautéed potatoes. Less traditional options include seared sliced beef with an endive and ginger salad or a foie gras terrine with fig chutney. The tables are piled with hedges of fresh roses, while Chinese porcelain and vintage travel posters decorate the walls. Ratchet up the romance further by booking one of the three tables-for-two lining the narrow balcony. Reservations recommended for dinner.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 11:30 am to 1:30 pm and 6:30 to 9:30 pm, Sundays and Mondays 6:30 to 9:30 pm.

Lemongrass
4 Nguyen Thiep Street
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
Tel: 84 8 822 0496
www.bongsencorporation.com

Tucked away on a side street just a block from the Opera House and Lam Son Square, this 80-seat restaurant serves a mix of locals, expats, and tipped-off travelers. The cozy dining room—tile floors, wood wainscoting—is attractive, and success hasn't spoiled the experience: The southern Vietnamese fare remains fresh and affordable. Don't miss the grilled-beef salad with mango, or chicken sautéed with chile and lemongrass. The waitstaff is sometimes stymied by the narrow, three-story layout—second-floor seating will ensure the best service. Reservations are recommended for dinner, which is more of a local affair than lunch.

Open daily 11 am to 2 pm and 5 to 10 pm.

Mandarin
11a Ngo Van Nam Street
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
Tel: 84 8 822 9783

Mandarin, a sister property to Hoi An, is a sophisticated place; there are Chinese screen paintings and timber beams, and often a live classical trio plays downstairs (call ahead to check the schedule). Chinese dishes are on the menu, but the most successful are those that strike the traditional Vietnamese chord of spicy, fishy, salty, sour, and caramelized notes. For starters, try the bay scallops grilled in their shells and dressed with chopped scallions, peanuts, and herbs. Main courses include costly abalone and shark's fin, as well as succulent beer-steamed crabs.

Mango Rooms
111 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street
Hoi An
Vietnam
Tel: 84 510 910 839
www.mangorooms.com

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
Hue
Vietnam
Tel: 84 5 481 9849
www.mediterraneo-hanoi.com

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.

Pho 24
191 Giang Vo Street
Dong Da District
Hanoi
Vietnam
www.pho24.com.vn

With more than 40 soup-for-you restaurants located throughout the country, this successful franchise dwarfs even McDonald's in Vietnam. Like the Golden Arches, there are no surprises during—or, more important, after—a Pho 24 meal. The gristle-free beef cuts (take your pick of brisket, flank, or tripe) are a grade or two above the street-food hawkers—they won't brew a vacation-killing stomach problem, either. The large, steaming bowls of broth, meat, and rice noodles come with sides like mint, limes, onion, and chiles to kick up the taste quotient. All this, for a budget-friendly 24,000 Vietnamese dong (about $1.50). Hanoi counts nearly ten clean, well-lit Pho 24 outlets, which are all equipped with straightforward menus, simple black-lacquer tables and stools, and superefficient staff.

Open daily 7 am until late.

Quan An Ngon
138 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
Tel: 84 8 829 9449

The owner of this popular restaurant scoured the streets for the best dishes he could find, then offered the sellers a gig at his new restaurant at a regular wage. Thus Quan An Ngon was born in 2001. Now 20 or more former street vendors stand in the restaurant's open-air dining area preparing specialties such as spring rolls, bun cha (char-grilled meat and peanuts over rice noodles) and bun bo hue (spicy soup with seafood and pork). The communal tables are packed with locals—always an auspicious sign.

Restaurant Bobby Chinn
77 Xuan Dieu Street
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 934 8577 or 84 4 934 8578
www.bobbychinn.com

Owned by the young American chef Bobby Chinn, this hip restaurant is packed with Western ex-pats and visitors seated on the silk-pillowed banquettes. Gauzy drapes and paintings by young Vietnamese artists complete the stylish setting. You won't get the deferential service that's typical in Hanoi. Instead, servers are as casually friendly as actor-waiters in a Manhattan hot spot. Chinn combines organic Vietnamese ingredients in his inventive dishes, such as spicy sea bass in a turmeric vinaigrette or banana blossom fritters in ginger sauce. If you're lucky, the chef will sit at your table and offer an irreverent commentary on local goings-on. Sit by the windows for great views over Hoan Kiem Lake.

Temple Club
29–31 Ton That Thiep
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
Tel: 84 8 829 9244

Tucked away on a downtown shopping street in an outwardly unimpressive building, the Temple Club actually occupies a former Chinese temple. The place has a languorous 1930s ambience, with a classic old wooden bar. Everything here is for sale, from the antique throw rugs and Buddhist tapestries to the retro designer furniture. The menu is Vietnamese, with dishes such as shrimp in tamarind sauce and fried monkfish. Finish your meal by stopping in downstairs at Fanny's. The wonderful ice cream flavors include local favorites like durian as well as the usual suspects, such as chocolate and vanilla.

Vine Wine Boutique Bar & Café
1A Xuan Dieu Street
Tay Ho District
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 719 8000
www.vine-group.com

At Vine, the wine is the star of the meal, and the decor reflects that. Rows and rows of its 100,000-bottle inventory glint from the walls of the 80-seat dining room. With 1,000 labels to choose from, there's a wine for any dish, which is helpful since chef Donald Berger's free-ranging cuisine reflects nearly 30 years' and a world's worth of influences. The multicultural menu features spring rolls filled with sautéed forest mushrooms and braised beans; grilled lemongrass-skewered Alaska sea scallops; and linguine with duck, sun-dried tomato, and dried-olive ragout (best matched with an '04 Vynfeld Marlborough Pinot Noir). The slate floors, soft lighting, and muted lounge music whisper of a sophistication rarely seen elsewhere in Vietnam. Ditto the prices, though the bill is presented like a gift in a lacquered box inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The West Lake location is about two miles north of the Hoan Kiem tourist district, but Vine is a hit with expat foodies and upscale Vietnamese alike.

Open daily 9 am to 11 pm.

Wild Lotus
55A Nguyen Du Street
Hai Ba Trung District
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 943 9342
www.wildlotus.com.vn

Located just south of Hoan Kiem District, Wild Lotus has an ethereal elegance and even better food. Inside the walled compound, paving stones bridge a reflecting pool that leads to a staircase winding past a grotto holding a large Buddha image. Inside, the intimate rooms of this old French villa feature 13-foot ceilings, hand-painted wall murals, and lotus-theme tiles. But it's the meals that command the most attention, with gourmet Vietnamese dishes like peanut-crusted shrimp on green mango salad and grilled duck with orange sauce. The generous portions are thoughtfully presented, though some diners may prefer spicier interpretations, such as the prix fixe "spice route" meals, which explore a variety of Asian cuisines. Less formal than its upscale sister property, Wild Rice (6 Ngo Thi Nham St.; 84-4-943-8896), this rambling, romantic space appeals to expat couples and hi-so (high society) Vietnamese families and is usually packed by 7:30 pm. The third-floor terrace holds an open-air bar that's ideal for a digestif.

Open daily 10 am to 11 pm.

Xu
71–75 Hai Ba Trung Street
Level One
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
Tel: 84 8 824 8468
www.xusaigon.com

Australian-born restaurateur Bien Nguyen made over the stolid office space of the Ministry of Information into this sleek, second-story hideaway that is light-years removed from a Chinatown pho dive. Vietnamese sophisticates kick back on the lounge's oversize ottomans, sipping lemongrass-infused sake-tinis, grazing on grilled grouper-stuffed pancakes with ginger dressing, and grooving to the Buddha Bar–style music. The adjacent 90-seat dining room is just as design-conscious and delicious, with a menu that mixes traditional fare, such as fresh coi guon rolls (prawns, pork, and noodles wrapped in rice paper), with contemporary Vietnamese, like a tangy salad of sliced beef and herbs with tamarind dressing or pan-roasted prawns with sambal oil and mango dumplings. At Xu's relatively expensive prices, however, we would expect more creative food presentation.

Open daily 11:30 am to midnight.

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