Monday, April 4, 2011

Dear Phil - a birthday treat

Today is my birthday.

Bring Me Cake - or I'll laser you with my Katie Perry eyes!

Since today is a workday, we had a little early celebration last night - by going to dinner at our favourite Vietnamese restaurant:

Cuc Gach Quan - 10 Dang Tat, Ward Tan Dinh, District 1, Saigon

There are many many reasons why we love this restaurant.  And the fact that we live a 30 second walk away from it is only an added bonus. The food is just outrageously good, the price is not expensive, the atmosphere is so pleasant - you feel like you're in a very special place when you go to this restaurant.  As you walk in the front gate you pass a big pile of fresh fruit - especially pomelos that will be used later in the kitchen.  So the very first experience is a delicious fragrance to stimulate the palate.

We are led through the restaurant, then up a very steep flight of stairs to the room where our table is.

Vietnam: I know you are trying to break my ankles. Please have mercy!

This restaurant is a traditional skinny house that has been converted into a restaurant.  The owner is an architect and the design is modern, but also very respectful of the heritage of the place. I love everything about it. But don't wear heels when you go - there may be some stooping and climbing called for to get to your table.

We ordered a glass of wine and a beer, and while we were waiting for our food, my husband gave me an early birthday present - a new camera!  I'm so excited by this, because my old camera is really on it's last legs. And it meant we could get some pictures of the food in the very low light of the restaurant.

We ordered (clockwise) pomelo salad, crispy sea bass with passionfruit sauce, caramelised pork belly in a clay pot, and sauteed beef with lemongrass and chilli.  We were not disappointed.  The pomelo salad had slivers of pork and fresh prawns, and was a delicious cleansing mouthful between morsels of the other dishes.

The passionfruit sauce on the fish had a sweet and sour effect. The fish was light and crispy on the outside but still wonderfully soft in the middle. The pork belly was everything I had hoped for. Very rich and flavoursome with a thick gravy. The winner of the night was probably the beef.

In my old age I find that I have less and less tolerance for too much chilli, and I was a little wary when I saw the big chunks of chilli in this dish.  But it was perfect.  There was only the beautiful flavour of fresh chillis with none of the bite.  And lemongrass!  Perfect.  I couldn't stop eating it.

As evidenced by the 'after' shot:

I've had a gutsful!

But no so full that we couldn't manage any dessert!  We decided to try some Vietnamese desserts (no ice-cream on the menu!).

Struggling to remember, but I think these were called lotus seed porridge and bean porridge.  The Vietnamese word was Che, I think.  Mr Martin was very suspicious at first:

They were sweet and very delicious.  They are served chilled, and the water is a very sweet soupy stuff.  I don't really know what I was eating, but it was great! We liked the bean one best - I think it would make a nice (if a bit sugary) breakfast food.  But then, I always want to have dessert for breakfast!

On a different topic, what do you think of my new haircut?


  1. Like the new hair cut

  2. The new haircut is ace, and I am jealous of your birthday dinner (tell Uncle Marty to get some sleep, he looks tired).

    Happy Birthday Katrina!