The UnPHOgetful culinary journey of Vietnam

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Published: June 30, 2019 1:24:09 AM

Upon entering the dining area, the magnificent aromas are inviting. A rather long, swish bar facing the entrance in heterogeneous setup, with cocktail glasses hanging upside down on the front bar, awaits us.

UnPHOgetful culinary journey, Vietnam, southeast Asia, punchy flavours, sun-dappled rice terraces, lifestyleThai cuisine has largely dominated the restaurant (fine-dining or QSR) scene but now it’s time for Vietnam to popularise its cuisine.

Vaishali Dar

My recent memories of travel conjure up thoughts of street food bursting with punchy flavours, sun-dappled rice terraces and culture-filled bustling streets of southeast Asia. Thailand and Vietnam are the perfect introduction to the region. Vietnamese cuisine is a delicious mix of age-old native flavours and techniques using herbs, vegetables paired with soup, rice, grilled or steamed meats, fruits and salads, brought to the table in segments. This, unlike Thai, which is served in heaping portions and tends to stay with basil, mint and lemon grass.

Thai cuisine has largely dominated the restaurant (fine-dining or QSR) scene but now it’s time for Vietnam to popularise its cuisine. The newly opened hip bar and dining, Viet:Nom in Gurugram’s Cyberhub, makes a spirited attempt to introduce this popular southeast Asian cuisine in not just one but many ways. A perfect gastronomic experience, this one-of-its-kind space in India reflects the experiences of seasoned restaurateur-cum-owner

Manish Sharma (also owns Molecule and Drunken Botanist) and corporate chef Vaibhav Bhargava who explored the city and culture of Vietnam to absorb the original ethos through its unique gastronomy.

Upon entering the dining area, the magnificent aromas are inviting. A rather long, swish bar facing the entrance in heterogeneous setup, with cocktail glasses hanging upside down on the front bar, awaits us. Amidst the soft lights, we occupy a corner table that gives an expansive view of the 120-cover (80 indoor, 40 outdoor) restaurant. What gets our attention is a mesmerising Vietnamese visual art backdrop canvassed on the wall and urban hip hop music with Jackson’s Beat It playing on loop. A jamun-based sweet, tangy concoction builds our appetite as every sip gives a taste of Vietnamese and Asian-inspired classics with modern infusions.

Viet:Nom has utilised the typical Vietnamese rattan garden furniture against hues of green and pastels on the walls that constantly remind us of the sustainability drive through eco-friendly arrangements around DLF Cyberhub.

Our first grab from the menu is the Viet:Nom Nem Bar, summer fresh rice paper rolls served with peanut sauce, a befitting treat in the summer menu. Next comes a seafood salad with prawns, cuttlefish tossed with vegetables, herbs, which is quite succulent. The white rose steamed dimsums made of rice flour filled with ground mung beans are lighter than the Chinese ones. The best bit is that all the dishes come one by one on the table with different herbs, ingredients, noodles, fried rice and sauces and one can create your own meal as per the palate, allowing you to control the flavour profile and the level of spices. Pho soup with vegetables, rice noodles and chicken, is a noodle soup that comes in many varieties, perfect for those slightly unsure about the cuisine. Another memorable dish is the chicken mango curry (ga cary), mildly sweet made using coconut cream and local vegetables with steamed rice. Usually nuoc mam (fish sauce) is a tad pungent, smoky and fragrant as it goes through the process of fermentation but the one served here is a subtle version of the spicy counterpart having no smell at all. The meal ended with healthy fruit desserts–pearl jewels with mango in basil seeds and chilled yoghurt parfait with seasonal fruits and edible flowers — a perfect way to end a wholesome meal.

Most ingredients like rice and herbs are painstakingly sourced from Vietnam to ensure the highest possible quality. The culinary journey is incomplete without a nón lá (palm-leaf conical hat) so the staff insists you get ‘insta’ clicked before you leave this place.

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