Last Friday, I was a bit surprised when my colleague in Nha Trang did not drive us to the beach for dinner.
"Tonight we will have dinner at Rom Vang (Golden Straw) restaurant," said Mr. Hoa.
Leaving the beautiful beach views of Tran Phu Street behind, we went down a small path and very soon reached a tiny rice field behind which stood a thatch roof restaurant.
It was for good reason that we traveled so far from Nha Trang's city center. The restaurant, nested in a naturally peaceful countryside enclave, seemed to promise some surprises in terms of local flavor.
There were coconut thatch roof bungalows some of which overlooked the rice field, while others had a view of the Cai riverbank. As arrived with a group of more than ten people, we choose a table in a big middle bungalow.
Nha Trang is famous for its diversified culture and Vietnamese and Champa traditions.
And this openness to other cultures is reflected in Nha Trang's architecture, art, rituals, dancing and music as well as cuisine.
Rom Vang (golden rice root) restaurant is a good example, as the name would suggest, offering authentic countryside style food such as duck, frog, snail, snake, rabbit, eel, plus seafood.
Interestingly, dishes from other regions in Vietnam such as cha ca La Vong(Hanoian style grilled marinated fish served with rice vermicelli) and steamed chicken wrapped in lotus leaves are also available.
In addition to the authentic Vietnamese countryside menu, the restaurant also offers fusion dishes which have a touch of French, Champa, Indian and Thai culinary styles (Indian goat curry, steamed clam with cheese and fried frog Thai curry).
Though some of us were curious, we were not in the mood to choose exotic dishes such as cha gio ran (fried spring roll with snake meat) or baked snaked wrapped with la lot leaves.
So we began by ordering some Nha Trang specialities including Uc vit Xiem hun khoi (smoked duck breast-VND78,000); Muc com hap dua (steamed baby squid with coconut water- VND 78,000); and So huyet nuong (Blood cockle-VND48,000).
It was not easy to choose from a menu with such a wide selection of dishes. Finally, after a discussion, we ordered lau nam (mushroom hot pot); steamed fish with lemongrass and morning glory stirred with garlic; and ca tim mo hanh (baked egg plan with onion and pig fat).
While waiting for the food, I walked around the restaurant for some fresh air. Next to the riverbank stood a big pile of straw, reminiscent of a relaxing time in countryside after the crops had been harvested.
A lotus pond with water lilies blooming and a garden full of new spring leaves resonated with the restaurant's dreamy atmosphere.
The steamed fish and vegetable dishes and baked blood cockle were quite tasty, but the the fresh mushroom hot pot and smoked duck breast served with dua hanh (pickled onion and baby cucumber) and basil were the best.
The smoked duck meat was very tender and thick (cut into small pieces with skin still on like Beijing duck). But somehow it managed to taste like smoked bacon.
The chef must have been a master of both Asian and Western flavors to have created the dish. It was tender, a bit salty and passionate, just like a sweet haunting.
The price ranges from VND18,000 (soup) to around VND158,000 per kilogram for seafood.
If tourists feel they must try cha ca La Vong during their stay in Hanoi, they would also be wise not to skip Uc vit Xiem hun khoi (smoked duck breast) at the Rom Vang restaurant in Nha Trang.
Rom Vang restaurant
Phu Nong hamlet, Vinh Ngoc Village, Nha Trang city, Khanh Hoa province.
Source: Thanh Nien NEws
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