Peter Cornish samples some sublime vegetarian fare in the here and now. Photos by Romain Garrigue.
Nestled in the corner of a small hem, off the larger hem that Tran Ke Xuong becomes as it crosses Phan Xich Long, Here & Now Vegetarian can be tricky to find the first time you venture there, especially as the map location is slightly off.
But have a little patience, follow Tran Ke Xuong around the corner and you’ll find this charming little restaurant easily visible tucked down an alley on your right. It’s well worth the effort.
Coming into the restaurant through a small entrance in the corner of the hem you are greeted by calm tranquillity of a shaded courtyard with chairs and tables to seat about 30.
The courtyard itself is L-shaped, wrapped around the house that homes the restaurant and partially covered by an overhanging roof. In the opposite corner is a large tree, providing shaded cover for diners, or people coming to sit and relax as they enjoy a freshly squeezed juice or a pot of flavoured tea.
The restaurant is a favourite hang out for local artists and their work lines the walls of the open-air dining area.
As soon as you walk through the entrance into the shaded interior you are greeted by warm and welcoming music and the soothing sounds of water flowing from a seated Buddha into a small fish pond in the corner.
This is much more than just a restaurant, it’s a place to relax, forget all your troubles and enjoy the moment here and now.
The food is fresh and innovative, classic Asian food but adapted ever so slightly to be modern, new and unique. Traditional and familiar Vietnamese dishes are prepared and presented simply, allowing the fresh, locally sourced ingredients to speak for themselves.
The menu offers ample choice with dishes served individually or to be shared with friends, family or colleagues.
We opted for the com bi do nuong (VND75,000), a deliciously moist dish of grilled broken rice similar in texture to couscous and mixed with pepper, peas, carrot and pumpkin.
Accompanying this came gio rau cau chan viet (VND70,000), or kappaphycus alvarezil (elkhorn sea moss) salad, served in a rice cracker basket, colourful, and full of flavour.
Next up was cuon diep (VND65,000), a beautifully presented plate of mustard cabbage rolled with mushrooms and bean curd sheets, wrapped in leaves and fastened with tied stalks and packed with light, fresh flavours that burst through with every bite.
Last to be brought out was nem nam (VND75,000), crispy bean curd rolls, stuffed with mushroom and carrot.
Served hot and crisp, these were without doubt the highlight of our meal!
This little restaurant is a hidden charm, an oasis of peace and tranquility away from the chaos of the surrounding city.
If you’re looking for deicious, wholesome Vietnamese food in calm, relaxing surroundings, this is a spot surely not to miss!