A wide choice of fresh fish and meat grilled outdoors is turning this barbeque into the latest District 2 hotspot. Review by Lorcan Lovett. Photos by Jonny Edbrooke
Anyone walking down the quiet Nguyen Van Huong street on a Thursday night will notice wafts of smoke and music blowing from underneath a red and white awning.
The wisest move would be to walk into Circus Kitchen and feast on its all-you-can-eat outdoor barbeque, one of the newest additions to Thao Dien’s food scene.
The restaurant has a relaxed ambiance, with outdoor seating covered by the canvass and splintered with circus coloured pillars which surround a circle of grills.
Most of the food is cooked in this spot although there’s another indoor kitchen where soups and other dishes are made.
Every Thursday from 6.30pm, customers are offered a tempting banquet of fresh food for VND 220,000 to be cooked either by the chefs or by themselves at a grill on their own table.
All-you-can-eat deals are something I’ve always seen as a personal challenge rather than an option, so on that note I started light.
First up was a creamy cabbage salad with a juicy, skewered prawn, and a bite of succulent pork still warm off the grill.
This was washed down with blended passion fruit juice (VND 35,000) served in a big jam jar-style glass.
Already the value for money of this fresh food extravaganza was showing when I stacked up my second plate: samna fish with chilli and salt grilled for just about the right time, along with skewers of ladyfingers, eggplant and dragon beans, plus a chicken wing.
Circus Kitchen opened in mid-June although you could easily mistake it for a more established restaurant due to the amount of reserved tables.
At about 7.30pm, the tables were almost full and underneath the canvass a buzzing atmosphere filled the air that was greased by the restaurant’s signature draft beer (VND 20,000 a pint), brewed locally by Nha Hang Big Man Beer.
For the third plate, I shuffled on a handful of steaming Thai steamed clams, Sautéed corn with tiny shrimps, and a skewer of beef wrapped in betel leaves.
Although my stomach was beginning to swell, the latter dish still impressed, with thebeef’s juices sealed in peppery leaves tasting great after a dunk in nuoc mam cham.
For you, the reader, I confronted the barbecue one last time and chose squid grilled like the samna fish in chilli and salt, refreshing young papaya salad sprinkled with dry beef, chicken yakitori imparting a sweet soy-sauce zing, and fried rice holding soft, whole cloves of garlic.
On the way home, I felt my Thursdays would now be monopolised by Circus Kitchen, whose combination of grills and a la carte with a sophisticated, street food style really hits the spot.