An affordable restaurant in District 1 that serves up classic Hong Kong-style cuisine. By Dana Filek-Gibson. Photos by Fred Wissink.
From the moment you step in the front door, Room Eighteen knocks you off-balance. The light from outside disappears, and your eyes are drawn to a narrow, busy kitchen on the right, where uniformed chefs hover over fiery stove tops and sizzling pans. A few steps farther and the din of the kitchen gives way to dark wooden tables book-ended by plush red chairs, and a small, intimate space that lends itself to the mystique of the restaurant.
Since 2010, the restaurant has been serving up Hong Kong-style food, specialising in Chinese barbecue (VND 78,000 to VND 218,000) and carrying an extensive list of dim sum options (VND 38,000 to VND 68,000). Room Eighteen is eager to begin the new year with a new menu, featuring well-known traditional dishes as well as more unique offerings. On a warm, sunny afternoon last month, we escaped the sweltering heat outside and tried a few of the restaurant’s brand-new recipes.
The first plate to arrive was an order of Shanghai steamed dumplings (VND 38,000). If there is such a thing as Chinese comfort food, this is it. With a fragile, crepe-like skin cooked to perfection and a dense helping of minced meat inside, these dumplings combine savoury pork with a light, flavourful broth for a snack that satisfies.
Next up was a unique and slightly more adventurous seafood dish. Presented in a sturdy clay pot, the braised mushroom, scallops, fish maw, and sea cucumber (VND 280,000)adds another dimension to the conventional Chinese cuisine on offer. This dish’s distinct seafood taste comes from the melt-in-your-mouth scallops and fish maw, which are complimented nicely by a subtle variety of mushrooms, broccoli, and the hearty stock in which the meal is cooked.
But the star of Room Eighteen’s new menu is the Peking duck(VND 108,000-568,000), a rich and savoury dish in two parts. Its crispy, golden skin is served inside crepe-like pancake rolls along with cucumber and green onion. The decadence of the duck skin is heightened by the thick, smoky flavour of the accompanying sauce, while the cucumber and green onion add a cool contrast to the richness of the other ingredients. Once the skin has been removed, the remaining duck can be prepared with the guest’s choice of fried rice, fried noodles, or soup. Both the piping hot broth and aromatic fried noodles that followed our duck skin were worthy accompaniments. The hearty sweet-and-sour soup was light and satisfying, while the fried noodles arrived just right — neither too oily nor too salty.
On Tuesdays, all dishes valued under VND 108,000 — most of the menu — are discounted to VND 58,000 apiece. With an intriguing ambiance and a brand-new menu, Room Eighteen is a great way to start the new year.