Vietnamese family-style feasts in a fresh, stylish setting to help begin the Lunar New Year. By Ruben Luong. Photos by Vinh Dao.
There is nothing quite like a few simple but prosperous meals with your nearest and dearest to set off the Lunar New Year in high spirits.
That’s why we visited Red Bricks restaurant and café on Ho Tung Mau and Nguyen Cong Tru Streets, where we found a healthy serving of tradition from an extensive menu of warm, homecooked family meals with Vietnamese ingredients and charm.
Vietnamese dishes like canh cua rau day (freshwater crab soup with jute vegetable, VND 79,000) and dau hu rang muoi (salt-roasted tofu, VND 69,000) are only some of the enticing selections from a variety of salad, pork, beef, fish and seafood, tofu, vegetable, noodle, hotpot and regional specialties created to serve any mood or palate at reasonable prices.
We enjoyed a family-style feast of bo xao cu hu dua (stir-fried beef with coconut shoots, VND 89,000), nem cua be (spring rolls with sea crab filling, VND 99,000), dau hu Hoang Kim (Hoang Kim tofu, VND 69,000), bong bi xao toi (stir-fried pumpkin buds, VND 79,000) and, of course, an obligatory claypot of communal steamed rice.
They are all dishes that are fun to nibble on and share from the table, especially the bong bi xao toi, a vegetable that’s almost too savoury to be your ordinary vegetable and one that seems endless on the plate.
The dau hu Hoang Kim was recommended by one of the waiters. Little bites of fried egg tofu, crispy and golden on the outside but hot and soft on the inside, felt surprisingly light and healthy and meshed well with mouthfuls of our steamed rice.
Bo xao cu hu dua added some brightness to the table with a mound of plentiful coconut shoots. It was a little light on the beef but most of the dish’s flavour derived from onions, diced and sauteed, which were particularly good to eat after a mouthful of the pumpkin buds.
Dishes like nem cua be should be saved for last. The layers of crunchiness and salty crab filling made the meal memorable. They are served with fish sauce, noodles and a bed of lettuce and herbs for wrapping.
The food was fresh and inspired long conversations within the intimate space of Red Bricks – our plates stood out against rough and natural materials such as wood and brick accents. It was all complemented by minimalist steel, light and green space, adding harmony and substance appropriate for the Lunar New Year.