Brett Davis, along with some brave AsiaLIFE colleagues, seek out the best late-night eating spots to take the edge off the next day’s pain. Photos by Kendra Bernard.
We’ve all been there: it’s midnight, and after several hours of having more than a few drinks you manage, through the fog, to cast an eye towards the following day. Some food is required to soak up the booze and hopefully minimise tomorrow’s hangover. Never a group to back down from a challenge (unless it’s, like, kinda hard) the AsiaLIFE team decided to go gonzo and after a night of research for a story on rice wine (page 32) we hit the following five after-hours eateries and reported on the fly.
17/34A Le Thanh Ton, D1.
Open until 1.40am.
This area is a rabbit warren. It’s generally known as the ghetto, but my colleague Dana Filek Gibson has christened it ‘Japansville’, and declares it her favourite part of town. The place is kind of cosy, with a typical Japanese setup and chairs lined along an L-shaped counter. You do see some weird individuals around here. We are located at the junction of two alleys and, I shit you not, a guy just walked past with six girls dressed in sexy air hostess outfits. I’d like to know where that party is. Anyway, good gyoza (fried dumplings, VND 50,000). I’ll let Dana sum up the place: “You walk out feeling kind of greasy, but that’s what you should do after a night of drinking.” It reminds me a little of the place in the great Japanese food movie Tompopo, just missing the cute ramen lady and the truck driver in the cowboy hat. I can’t believe none of my companions have seen it. “See the damn movie, all of you.”
413-414 Nguyen Trai, D5.
Open until 1am.
Wow, I get loud when I get drunk. Not aggressive loud (I hope), just the volume seems to go up a notch. Which kind of works here, since it is packed with mainly locals and the sound bounces off the hard surfaces. Not the cheapest bowl of pho in town, but the pho bo (VND 72,000) is big and comes with slices of beef and meatballs. Some of the others are getting a little slurry, while a few among us seem suspiciously composed. I’m looking at you, art director Kendra. Seriously, the last stop on the rice wine research tour was a curb-side place that sold home-made ‘rum’. Not sure what it was exactly but Kendra was knocking that stuff back. She even refused the coke mixer the rest of us used. I put it down to her Jamaican heritage. I also think I am going to get in trouble for saying that, or thinking it. Did I just say that out loud?
Tan hai van
162 Nguyen Trai, D1.
Open 24 hours.
This is actually a proper Chinese restaurant. It looks like it, smells like it and is never closed. Not a bad Shanghai dumpling (VND 45,000) either. They have a section on the menu called ‘Recovery Dishes’. Ha, quite appropriate. Holy crap! There is something listed called 1st Class Soup and it goes for VND 9.8 million. Doesn’t say what’s in it, but I’m guessing shark fin and panda penis. It does make me think fondly of the two years I lived in China and the great food in Beijing, where you could get every cuisine from around the country, from the simplicity of Hainan food, fiery Sichuan or the meaty goodness of Uyghur cuisine from Xinjiang province in the far northwest. Everything else about living there was, frankly, balls. Polluted, dirty, freezing most of the year and people were as hard as a coffin nail. Still, food was great.
207 Bui Vien, D1.
Open until 5am.
I think, possibly, where we have gone wrong on this little experiment is continuing to drink as we search for food to recover from drinking. I’m not complaining though; this kind of commitment to journalism comes with a price. So, this place is known for its crepes. I just thank Christ they are savoury crepes. If someone put a dessert crepe in front of me right now it would be spontaneously topped with the contents of my stomach. However, the mushroom, onion and bacon crepe (VND 115,000) is pretty good. You know how it’s said that ‘nothing good happens after 2am’? Well, combine that with being in the general vicinity of the Pham and it’s like a factor of 50. God, and we have to literally run the length of Bui Vien to our last stop.
Corner Pham Ngu Lao and Tran Hung Dao, D1.
Open 24 hours.
And so we reach our nadir. Dana is hanging in, just, trooper that she is. Anyone who can drink like that has a bright future in journalism. Kendra, damn you, still looking way too sober. Anyway, I don’t have to describe what is on the menu or what it tastes like because at 2am we have all been here and we all know: it tastes like self-loathing. Now, just go the fuck home.