Thai-accented pan-Asian cuisine inspired by street dishes but prepared worthy of royalty. By Ruben Luong. Photos by Vinh Dao.
With street and hawker specialties from Thailand prepared under one roof – and in one room – The Racha Room is Ho Chi Minh City’s latest restaurant-cum-lounge fit for a king.
It’s certainly a refined quarter for enjoying Thai-accented pan-Asian, street-influenced dishes, which have been elevated into smart and chic plates by executive chef Chris Donnellan and are served late into the night.
First, mind the giant elephant in the room – painted colourfully on the wall, that is – and ease into a menu of 12 plentiful snack options (VND 60,000-150,000), which are surprisingly elegant and intricately prepared.
Salt and pepper school prawns with red nam jim and crispy taro (VND 95,000), for instance, are beautifully cooked in a light, crispy batter. It’s easy to eat the entire prawn, rather than peel off each cumbersome tail. Moreover, the red nam jim is lemony and zesty, a sauce worthy of drinking.
The coconut-marinated salmon in peanut and tamarind dressing (VND 125,000) is a perfect snack for its play on texture. Crunchy peanuts blend with creamy coconut and melt under smooth, thin slices of fresh salmon covered in dill and chopped cold cucumber.
For something of substance, there is a VND 160,000 daily lunch set that changes every week. A recent menu included barbecue green curry chicken or fried snapper with smashed green papaya salad served with caramelised, wok-tossed eggplant and snake beans.
A reliable main is the US beef short rib entrée (VND 295,000), which comes swimming in a sweet massaman curry sauce accessorised in red chilli and accompanied with a side of pickled cucumber.
The Racha Room has the most amazing Thai dessert share plate (VND 290,000). Follow this order: first the coconut tapioca with mango puree, the steamed ginger pudding with poached apples, caramelised mango with chilli rock sugar, dark chocolate tofu cheesecake with chilli cherry jelly and lastly the Thai red tea panna cotta with poached pear. Yes, please.
The Racha Room also offers 30 percent off wine glasses, signature cocktails and soft drinks from 6.30pm-8pm daily.
With a deal like that, it’s hard to resist one of the signature infusions, like the refreshing Concubine (St Germain Elderflower liqueur, lychees, lime juice and fresh cucumber).
More intriguing is the Hot and Stormy (Brugal Especiale dark rum, sugar cane juice, maple syrup, ginger beer and chilli) a signature cocktail suitable for deep ruminating on long days and long nights.