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A new pedestrian mall in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 10 will open to foot traffic on December 17. Vehicle-free at night, the street is expected to become a popular spot.

At a length of over 100 metres, the Ky Dai Quang Trung pedestrian mall will feature over 50 stalls and shops from 6pm to 11pm daily. On the nights it was opened on a trial basis, it attracted both local people and visitors.

The most attractive quality of the pedestrian mall is that it has over 30 food stalls selling traditional dishes from the south of Vietnam that tickle the taste buds of visitors.

Though COVID-19 has been largely brought under control in Vietnam, the management board of the Ky Dai Quang Trung pedestrian mall has still imposed strict prevention measures.

The Ky Dai Quang Trung pedestrian mall will officially open to the public on December 17 and is expected to become a new hotspot in Ho Chi Minh City./.VNA



Cloud Nine – High above the hubbub



PERFECTION ON A PLATE: Grilled Australian beef tenderloin served with mashed potatoes, pumpkin puree, asparagus, carrots, and black pepper sauce. VNS Photo Ngô Minh

Sitting on the ninth floor of the La Siesta Hotel in the heart of Hà Nội, Cloud Nine Restaurant boasts sensational views over the centre of the capital. The main colour palette is black and white, but unlike the rest of the hotel, large windows let light stream in. The food and service are both excellent, and while it’s not cheap it’s definitely worth your while.

I have walked along Hàng Bè Street many times but never seen any sign of Cloud Nine. La Siesta is a boutique hotel for foreign tourists, and the restaurant was especially popular among in-house guests. The damage inflicted on the tourism industry by COVID-19 saw both the hotel and restaurant become deserted. Undeterred, the owners designed a new menu with set lunch options suitable for local people and expats.

The decor is undoubtedly chic, with a hint of French and a wonderful Asian style and finesse. It serves a fusion of Vietnamese and Western food, and the set I ordered featured both local and European dishes prepared and presented in a fine-dining style.

The cream of sweet potato and prawn soup was a lovely way to start. It had a graceful appearance, with a custard-yellow hue. While the thick soup clung to the spoon, the sweetness of the sweet potato lingered on the lips. It was less sweet than cream of pumpkin soup.

TOP-NOTCH: Coconut core salad, a refreshing mix of coconut core, prawns, peanuts, and aromatic herbs. VNS Photo Ngô Minh

Then came the củ hũ dừa (coconut core) salad, a popular delicacy in Việt Nam’s south. Coconut core is the ‘heart’, the flesh of the coconut tree, and is found at the very top, hidden among branches. When you remove the layers of a coconut tree’s skin, you will find the coconut core. It’s white, sweet, fresh, cool, crunchy, and highly nutritious. Strips of coconut core, carrots, and red cabbage mixed with peanuts gave the salad a sense of refreshment. The dressing was a mixture of sweet and sour. Everything in the salad was well marinated, so was spicy and crunchy. The harmonious combination of different vegetables also gave it a burst of colour.

INTRIGUING: Matcha cream brulee with vanilla ice cream. VNS Photo Ngô Minh

The main was Grilled Australian beef tenderloin, served with mashed potatoes, pumpkin puree, asparagus, carrots, and black pepper sauce. It was a lean cut with comparatively little fat, or marbling, which makes a cut of beef moist and flavourful. The portion was 180 grams. The presentation was eye-catching, with yellow from the potato, green from the asparagus and cucumber, orange from the pumpkin, and the black from the sauce. The “medium rare” was perfectly cooked on the outside while preserving the juices and softness inside. It was extremely tender, with an almost buttery texture.

I felt full and wasn’t sure about dessert, but when it came I was fascinated by the matcha cream covered by cream brulee. A caramelised sugar layer covered the matcha cream, and the vanilla ice cream was cool in more ways than one.

The atmosphere was elegant, the food exquisite, and the service impeccable. Everything chimed, and I highly recommend you find the time to pay a visit, given how great the food is and how spectacular the view is. VNS

FOOD & FLAIR: Cloud Nine offers fine dining in a chic space. Photo courtesy of the restaurant

Cloud Nine Restaurant

Add: 27 Hàng Bè St., Hoàn Kiếm Dist., Hà Nội

Tel: 0914 680 406; (024) 3929 0011

Comments: Located on the 9th floor and encased in floor-to-ceiling windows offering 360-degree views across Hoàn Kiếm Lake and the Red River, Cloud Nine offers fine dining with a fusion of local and European cuisine.


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Chilling by the lake with drink in hand



by Hoàng Vân Anh

Ma Xó prides itself on its priceless sunset lake view, which is certainly one of its main selling points. Best known as a brunch spot, it’s nonetheless packed most of the time and its unique, cosy ambience reminds me of hanging out at a friend’s house.

Scrolling down its posts, I saw that they show guests snuggled up in warm blankets on cold winter days. Best yet, the food is always fresh, healthy and delicious, and they offer a host of different sessions that create a community of food, wine and art lovers, all soaking in its unique vibe and space.

BLUE VIEWS: Tiny seats on the footpath and good company at Ma Xó. Photo courtesy of Ma Xó

I first went to Ma Xó a few years ago after reading reviews raving about its brunch. It was packed, and we eventually sat down in tiny chairs and shared a few dishes that didn’t really stand out. The tiny chairs reminded me of iced tea places on the footpath, which wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned, so I then proceeded to forget all about Ma Xó for a while.

After leaving Hà Nội and returning last year, I saw a post about an intimate DJ Mixup and invited some friends over to see and hear what it was all about. It was a surprising sight: there was no raised DJ booth, just a regular table that you could sit at across from the DJs, and maybe even get to know them when they weren’t busy DJing.

Since my friends and I wanted to chat, we decided to head upstairs instead, and were pleasantly surprised with the space: a balcony with cosy sofas and dim yellow lights, creating the perfect setting for a casual get-together. While a friend ordered a teapot, I went with one of their incredibly affordable cocktails, and we all sipped on drinks and took in the surroundings. It was a little on the empty side, so we plugged in our phones, listened to our music and created our own vibe, as if it was one of our living rooms. We didn’t need to worry about fitting in, or sharing the space with others.

From 5.30pm to 7.30pm every Wednesday and Thursday, Ma Xó offers an affordable wine session where people can watch the sunset and enjoy the breeze while sipping on some tasty selections.

Since my second encounter with Ma Xó was so pleasant, one beautiful sunny day I invited some friends to come along and soak up the beautiful sunshine over brunch.

The menu at Ma Xó is as diverse as Tây Hồ district itself: Shakshuka with house-made creme fraiche and Roti Canai, fig toasty, slow-roasted duck phở cuốn (phở rolls), cao lầu (delicious Quảng Nam mixed noodles), and Swiss-style pumpkin rostito, as well as seasonal offerings like rich and creamy winter-warmer roasted cauliflower and coconut soup, with Moroccan spice blends ras el hanout.

The menu works perfectly for groups of picky friends who want to try some international cuisine. All dishes can be made into vegan or vegetarian versions, and Ma Xó really does try to please everyone and put a smile on their face.

I had to go with the fig toasty (VNĐ150,000), as the photo and description sounded too good to be true. Their toasted sourdough bread with fennel seeds was packed with pecorino and goat cheese, crispy bacon and figs, caramelised onions, and a side salad of mint, avocado and feta cheese. It was so fresh and tasty.

My friends, who had never tried figs before, were shocked at the texture and the flavour of the toasty. One of them ordered the omelette, bacon and roti bread with a side of chunky tomato salsa (VNĐ130,000), and really enjoyed it. It had been such a long time since I last had roti, so it was nice to discover I can have it for brunch with beautiful views of Hà Nội. All of the food and their flavour combos leave you feeling full but happy and healthy.

AMAZING TEXTURE: The fig toasty was incredibly fresh and tasty. VNS Photo Vân Anh

They also offer fresh smoothies and juices, and the best part is, it’s not over-priced like other healthy food spots around Tây Hồ.

The seating at Ma Xó is unique. Spread across their two floors, each corner offers different vibes. There’s a tiny, hidden corner right next to the kitchen for those preferring privacy. The main seating on the first floor involves large groups squeezing in, which literally brings everyone together. There are also tiny wooden tables and chairs facing the lake, under the breezy shade of tall trees — perfect for a lazy afternoon. Most first-timers will be able to see these corners since they’re on the first floor. But my favourite spot is the fourth floor, where there’s a sofa as well as short and tall tables, with incredible views of Truc Bach Lake at all times of the day.

I love every Instagram post Ma Xó creates. They promote and brag about what they have to offer, but it feels genuine, like receiving a text from a close friend.

It really does offer the best of all worlds: excellent food and drinks, affordable prices, incredible spaces, and great views all day long. VNS

COOL SPOT: Ma Xó is shrouded in greenery. Photo courtesy of Ma Xó


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The war-time secret behind Saigon eatery



Many interesting stories are told in this old broken rice joint, a former secret base of the People’s Army in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

Visiting the Dai Han broken rice shop at 113A Dang Dung Street, District 1, customers typically feel themselves transported back to the Vietnam war time (1955-1975).

Before 1975, the shop, then named Do Phu cafe, was a secret base of the People’s Army overseen by Tran Van Lai. The house had been assigned to Do Mien and his wife Su to sell broken rice and coffee, but in fact, served to store and transfer letters and confidential documents to the war zone.

The Do Phu cafe, now Dai Han broken rice shop, in Saigon. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi.

The Do Phu cafe, now Dai Han broken rice shop, in Saigon. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi.

Tran Vu Binh, son of Lai and the current owner of the eatery, recalled the birth of the shop. Before opening the business, Su went with her husband to Phnom Penh, Cambodia on an undercover intelligence mission.

After a few years in Phnom Penh, Su returned to the country with her husband and started selling broken rice. The shop sold meals for workers and gradually became popular among residents in the area, including many Korean soldiers taking part in the war.

Since the cafe was located next to the house of Ngo Quang Truong, an officer of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, the opposite side in the war, the couple had to be extra cautious.

“The postman had to wear shoes with a rotatable sole to hide secret mail. When he went into the kitchen of the shop to deliver letters, the owner had to be on guard to prevent others from following and avoid exposure,” Binh recounted.

Servings here comprise a blend of Vietnamese broken rice and kimchi, traditional Korean fermented vegetables, creating a unique flavor.

The shop’s original broken rice serving includes grilled ribs, roasted pork skin, fried eggs, pickled vegetables and sweet southern-style chili garlic fish sauce.

Since the Korean soldiers were not used to this, they had asked the owner to add kimchi.

“At the time, my mother used Vietnamese chili and garlic to make the kimchi, but after the Korean soldiers objected she switched to using Korean chili and garlic,” Binh said.

After the war ended, many Korean veterans returned to the shop to enjoy her dish.

A bowl of kimchi and a dish of broken rice at the café. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi.

A bowl of kimchi and a dish of broken rice served at the Dai Han shop in Saigon. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi.

The eatery now offers customers kimchi broken rice like it served in the war time.

Bao Ngan, a customer, said the dish has a name that makes visitors curious, featuring similar characters to the South Korean rice dish bibimbap.

“I was impressed after adding the kimchi and mixing in the fried egg since the taste was truly rich. VND60,000 ($2.6) for a dish is quite reasonable too,” she said.

In addition to kimchi broken rice, customers can also order Vietnamese fried churros with coffee for breakfast and take a look at the documents that show the activities of the People’s Army soldiers in Saigon.

The stop features in several tours of Saigon. It is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Customers who arrive by motorbike have to pay an additional VND5,000 for parking.


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