With a variety of dishes from all over the country, this restaurant in District 2 takes a classy but unpretentious approach to Vietnamese dining. By Chris Mueller. Photos by Fred Wissink.

Le Thuy Nga has been passionate about food from a young age. Her father taught her how to cook, using family recipes that were perfected before 1975, when Vietnamese food was as authentic as ever. So last December Nga, together with her husband, decided to branch away from the fashion business to share some of these home-style recipes.

Down a hushed street in Thao Dien, Frangipani Hoa Su seems to be the only building open after the sun goes down. Its bright lights are a welcome sight in the otherwise quiet and deserted area. With a mainly open-air set-up and sections of clay-tile roof to keep the elements out, the restaurant maintains a Vietnamese vibe, but with full-size tables and chairs for more comfortable dining.

On the evening when we dined, a large party of about 20 already was drinking heavily at the bar before taking seats at a long table next to us. Thankfully Frangipani’s open-air design and huge dining area means it can handle large, rowdy dinner parties while at the same time allowing smaller groups to eat in peace. The restaurant also has an open kitchen and a playground for kids, all so customers will feel at home.

While we waited for our first dish, bo bop thau (VND 89,000), a beef salad in vinegar and herbs, we were given some potato-chip-like crispy taro chips with a chilli and oil sauce for dipping, a great snack to ease hunger pangs. The beef salad, while not exactly unique, is one of my favourite ways to start a Vietnamese meal, and this one was fresh and clearly MSG-free, as the restaurant promises.

Next we tried the oc chuoi nau dau (VND 145,000), a hearty stew-like dish with large snails, turmeric sauce and tofu. A northern specialty, the dish was well-balanced with equal parts chewy snail and soft tofu. The Hai Phong native eating with us said it was just like back home.

To finish off the meal, we ordered the ca bong lau kho to (VND 165,000), catfish in a clay pot with sweet and sour catfish soup. I consider catfish the most difficult fish to prepare. Do it incorrectly and you might as well be eating mud, but done properly, like this one was, it is as good as any fish out there.

Frangipani Hoa Su opens 6.30am to 11.00pm, seven days

26 Le Van Mien, Thao Dien, D2
09 03 30 11 63



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