One of the most enjoyable things to do when visiting a foreign country for the first time is eat the local specialities. If this feeling grips you during your trip to Ho Chi Minh then Nha Hang Ngon restaurant is a delight, skilfully combining a comprehensive menu of classic Vietnamese dishes, English speaking waiters and beautiful surroundings. Located on Pasteur Street in the tourist centre of District 1, Nha Hang Ngon is a 10 minute walk from the Ho Chi Minh Opera House, along Le Loi and right at the Pasteur Street intersection.
Nha Hang Ngon restaurant stands out because it is housed in a charming French villa that has been restored to its former glory and painted a canary yellow. Out in the courtyard, you are surrounded by twinkling fairy lights and, running through the centre of the villa, an attractive lily pond. Whether you choose to sit inside or out, the environment is pleasant, with a gentle buzz of chatter and many cooks sitting around the periphery of the restaurant preparing dishes that span the breadth of Vietnamese cuisine. Although the restaurant is not air-conditioned, there are enough fans to create a gentle breeze.
The menu is full of all the staples of Vietnamese cooking, popular dishes include fresh spring rolls, minced prawn on bamboo and an array of noodle soups. For fans of seafood, the grilled crab comes cracked for convenience and accompanied by a delicious dipping sauce made with fish sauce, garlic, lemon and a subtle chilli kick. A meal at Nha Hang Ngon is accompanied by a platter of vegetables, herbs, fruits and leaves of varying texture and taste, as is the norm with authentic Vietnamese dining. With such a large menu, you would be forgiven for feel a little overwhelmed with the choice, but pleasingly, the English descriptions are excellent and the staff here are always ready with suggestions or recommendations.
It must be said that recipes at Nha Hang Ngon in Ho Chi Minh are geared towards the tourist palate, although there are still a noticeable minority of Vietnamese enjoying a meal here too – perhaps due to how attractively the restaurant is presented. It won’t be the most authentic dinner of your stay in Ho Chi Minh, but for enjoyment – and especially as an introduction to Vietnamese cuisine – it is up there with the best.