Another new restaurant has arrived on Nguyen Hue, Ngon Asia House, but is it a case of quantity before quality? By John Clarke. Photos by Jonny Edbrooke.
From the owners of Saigon’s famous Nha Hang Ngon, the D1 institution that placed Vietnam’s entire street-food menu under one roof, comes Ngon Asia House, a three-storey, 700-seat emporium bravely serving the cuisine of not one, not two, but five entire countries, covering Japan, Korea, China, Thailand and, of course, Vietnam.
Unlike Ngon’s other establishments, Asia House is more of a multi-storey dining complex than a restaurant. Boasting a maze of five country-specific kitchens and dining areas, each featuring its own unique contemporary design and quirky thematic touches, Asia House feels almost like a grown-ups culinary playground.
From the giant Japanese lanterns to the small, easy-to-miss design details like the hanging bamboo ceiling, it’s a restaurant that invites as much physical exploration as it does culinary. “It’s also good exercise!” adds sales manager Nguyen Tranh Dinh Loc. The Vietnamese area on the top floor, in particular, is worth a visit. Resplendent with birdcage-esque booths and dripping in golden fairy lights, it’s nothing short of spectacular.
Although each seating area centres around one of the five kitchens, with full a-la-carte table service now available you’re welcome to sit wherever you please and order from whichever country’s menu that takes your fancy.
As we browse the 350 dishes on offer, I ask Loc if there’s a risk of Asia House falling into the ‘quantity over quality’ trap. “We think of it as five restaurants in one place,” he says. “The kitchens are different. The chefs are different. They each specialise in Japanese dishes, or Korean dishes, for example. We like to think of it as five small restaurants in one place.”
Having ordered something from each menu, seven items in total, my three dining companions and I are left with a table heaving with food for just VND720,000 in total. And despite having been generated from five separate kitchens, it all arrives pretty much at the same time.
And the verdict? Yes, it’s good. Very good. The Korean bibimbap is excellent for just VND75,000. A five-piece sushi selection is a bargain too at VND90,000, and the Chinese char siu pork (VND85,000) is sweet, sticky and moreish. Pad thai, Chinese dumplings, Korean dumplings… it’s hard to fault any of it, or the service. Whether they can keep this up when the place is at full capacity, will be one of the deciding factors in the success of Ngon Asia House. With so much variety, it’s great for large groups and with such low prices it’s an ideal venue for trying a few new or unfamiliar dishes alongside those you already know and love.