The grill is the focus at this hidden-away gem in District 7. By Michael Tatarski. Photos by Vinh Dao.
Tucked away in a warren of narrow streets in the neighbourhood behind Lotte Mart, Quan La Gi 111 stands out thanks to the cloud of smoke pouring into the road from its streetside grills. The spacious restaurant is largely open-air, allowing diners to smell their food as it cooks and observe the roving karaoke singers and lottery ticket vendors who frequent the area.
Decorations are minimal with furniture of the stainless steel and plastic variety. The menu, though, should be taken seriously. Page after page of grilled seafood and meat dishes will leave you wishing for a bigger stomach and a number of vegetable options ensure you won’t overload on protein.
The main draw at Quan La Gi, at least according to the sign out front, is the grilled octopus (bach tuoc nuong). This comes in several different varieties, and we went with the bach tuoc nuong sa te (VND 190,000/kg). The satay marinade added great flavour to the fresh, slightly chewy octopus. If you’re like me and can’t judge weight, know that a half-kilogram is enough for three or four people, assuming you order other dishes.
And who wouldn’t order more food? We also went for a plate of excellent muc la chien gion (fried squid, VND 89,000), served with a delightful chili sauce. Afterwards we returned to the grill with canh ga nuong (grilled chicken wings, VND 49,000 per plate) and de vu chao (goat breast, VND 79,000 per plate). The chicken was exactly what one would expect, crispy and satisfying. The goat breast, served with grilled okra and an excellent sauce, was another highlight. The light meat is somewhat chewy and loaded with flavour.
Rounding out this meat-oriented feast were orders of rau muong xao toi (VND 30,000) and lemongrass tofu (VND 39,000). Both were done well, proving the cooks at La Gi know what they are doing beyond the protein dishes.
The restaurant’s menu also features a number of fish, grilled beef, pork and frog dishes, plus a dizzying array of shellfish and clams. Prices range from VND 40,000-100,000, with some of the seafood options coming in at a higher price point. There is, of course, the usual selection of soft drinks and beer, with bottles of Tiger for VND 15,000.
While Quan La Gi may not be the easiest place to find, it is well worth the effort thanks to the bounty of grilled treats on offer.