ngon 138 restaurant, ho chi minh

located at 138 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Bến Nghé, Ho Chi Minh. recommendations needed (we like the first floor), website here, tel +84 8 3825 7179.

good seafood in kitschy pavilion-like building. we’ve passed this restaurant quite a few times, and always resisted getting in here – but decided to be adventurous one night, and it was a pretty good thing (unlike our previous adventure at the japanese restaurant). the place is a little more overtly touristy, and while less refined than ngoc suong or song ngu, the food was pretty good, and worth a return. (it’s not as good as the other two establishments though, but that’s not because this was failing in any way. rather, those two are superlatively good)

the menu was a mix of vietnamese traditional dishes like pho and steamed rice cakes, as well as grilled meats and seafood. service was harried, and a little diffcult to get attention at times, but otherwise the food arrived fast and hot, and the boisterous nature of the restaurant was a pretty nice change too – far more casual and relaxed.

I don’t remember everything we had, but from top: steamed clams in lemongrass – very clean flavours and meaty; grilled pork skewerrs – you must get these, they grill them in the open courtyard in full view, and the meat is sweet and juicy and full of those lovely vietnamese marinade flavours; steamed corn-rice cakes – I forget the names of these, but they were essentially thin, lacy corn-rice pancakes topped with something crispy, and meant to be dipped in sweet chilli, which made them texturally interesting carb-fillers; my sister had a bowl of beef pho because she was slightly under the weather – and this was rather comforting and homely; and some steamed prawns, plain and simple.

we did get a plate of vegetables, which I remember for being a mixture of aromatics and onions, and was pretty interesting – it tasted like a fragrant salad rather than the usual vegetable dish that we expected, and I liked this very much.

this place is good for being more accessible than ngoc suong or song ngu, though it’s not as though the other two are in obscure places. come here for a vibrant, convival atmosphere, and very reasonably-priced food, and do remember to get those pork skewers.

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