Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Food & Dining: Nha Trang @ Tai Koo

Nha Trang @ Tai Koo
Image from Locky's English Playground
Having got bored with the routine dishes I cook, my wife and I decided to gather her side of the family together for a dinner at Nha Trang in Tai Koo, a Vietnamese restaurant not only known for the gorgeous look and taste of its food, but also for its reputation.

Michelin Guide 2014 Recommendation
Image from Locky's English Playground
Some may not trust the recommendations from the Michelin Guide, but surely there is something to it in order to make it into this year's list of recommendations.

Packed with diners
Image from Locky's English Playground

The popularity was confirmed by the fact that we had to wait for almost an hour before getting our table, and I am talking about a table for 6, which seems to have just 3 tables of this capacity in the entire restaurant. Reservation is highly recommended, if the restaurant offers such service.

The bar
Image from Locky's English Playground

Two things you will definitely notice when you enter the restaurant. 1) This restaurant is brightly lit with lots of white walls and framed photos,

"Tray paper" that is not on a tray
Image from Locky's English Playground

Image from Locky's English Playground

and 2) the colour-printed menu looks so yummy that you want to eat the menu!

But how's the food?

For convenience sake, I'm just gonna copy and paste the description of the dishes from the menu directly,

Goi Buoi
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Goi Buoi -- two jumbo char-grilled prawns, peeled pomelo, shredded cucumber, sliced red onion, toasted cashew nut and black sesame seed, sprinkled with fried shallot and garlic flakes. 

This is one of the best appetizers ever! The prawns are big enough to impress most people and together with the sweet pomelo, we felt that it was definitely some bang for the buck! Highly recommended!

Thit Bo, Ga
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Thit Bo, Ga -- Grilled Lemongrass Chicken and Beef Skewers
Infused with the scent of lemongrass combined with a sweet marinate; the following are also served with a mild nutty satay dip. Portion size: 3 rolls for chicken and beef
Can't visit a Vietnamese restaurant without lemongrass skewers. This is another must-have on the menu. The lemongrass really added cooling lemony flavour to the meat! Delightful to look at, excellent taste!

Xoi Ga
Image from Locky's English Playground
Xoi Ga -- This popular tasty street food features slightly sticky fluffy rice, mixed and steamed with buttery mung beans and a little coconut juice. Over this is browned shredded roast chicken, julienned Vietnamese salami and crispy deep-fried shallot chips.
Hm.... not really my cup of tea. The rice is warm and the mixture does provide some chewiness to it, but it got cold quickly and the sticky rice hardened as the temperature lowered. Would improve if the container can keep the food warm.

Pho Tai
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Lean flavourful just-cooked meat that further flavours the broth.

Love the generous sweet basil and the mint offered. I basically ate every leaf of it, so refreshing when added to the soup!

Image from Locky's English Playground
The pho and the beef were alright, nothing to astounding.

La Dua Bo Nuong
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Super-tender thin slices of beef in a pineapple and lemongrass marinate are slow-grilled in aromatic pandanas leaf, resulting in a tender patty.

Looks brilliant initially, then what a disappointment when eating.

Image from Locky's English Playground
The meatball was made with mashed beef wrapped by beef slices. Grilled as it looked, left the inner meat slightly undercooked and wet. It was difficult to tell whether it was meat juice, but even if it was, I could not tell from the taste of it, not even from the taste of the meat. It was hard to believe I was eating beef as it did not taste beefy as all. Not recommended.

Cha Gio
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A deep-fried Vietnamese favourite, sometimes known as ‘imperial rolls’. Served with lettuce leaves and fresh herbs.

Despite the fact that my father-in-law found a leech on one of the lettuce leaf and the waiter had it discarded upon reporting, this spring roll dish is actually not bad. It offers a number of vegetables for wrapping such as cucumber slices, sweet basil, mint, iceberg lettuce and perilla leaves.

Muc Nhoi Thit
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Fresh young squid are filled with a pork, chopped squid, garlic and ginger stuffing before grilling.

This is quite an art, but an art only chewable when hot. Leaving in cold for 5 minutes and the squid will turn into rubber bands.

Image from Locky's English Playground
Taste-wise, marvellous! Especially the fillings, squids-in-squids, very creative!

Image from Locky's English Playground
Tasted even better with the green chili sauce, if you don't mind the slimy look!

Image from Locky's English Playground
Very traditional comfort food, often served at Tet, the Lunar New Year. The super-tender meat and skin of this prize pork cut is the result of slow-cooking in seasoned young coconut juice for six hours.

Too tough, both the skin and the meat, almost unchewable, truly disappointing. How naturally tender pork belly can be prepared into something so tough is beyond my knowledge. Not recommended.

In conclusion, the food in Nha Trang @ Tai Koo can have quite a huge range in terms of food quality. The chef who grills has excellent skills while other chefs did a pretty poor job. If you are to visit this restaurant next time, go for the grilled food and noodles, only.


astounding -- (adj) very surprising or shocking:
perilla leaf -- (n) a leaf commonly used in the cooking of Chinese hairy crab

Nha Trang Official Page