Thursday, February 27, 2014

Back From The Land of Night Markets

鸡蛋虾仁汤, 宁夏夜市

Having spent 5 awesome days in Taipei last week, I'm caught up with work, tons of household chores at home (Home alone for a month with the parents in Hong Kong and Shanghai), and still living in self denial that I'm back. So just a teaser shot of Taipei for this week, and I will finish my HCMC writeups before moving to Hong Kong, Bangkok and Taipei posts.

Gosh, the backlogs!

Taken with Nikon D7100
Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ciao Cafe: Good Morning HCMC

With the city's love for coffee and baguette, it sure ain't hard to find a breakfast joint. And at the avid recommendation of my local friends, they were determined to bring me to Ciao Cafe on one such morning. Who am I to argue? Ha

Located smacked in the city centre diagonally across the iconic Rex Hotel, Ciao Cafe has an old world charm that didn't look or feel tacky. You will see expats and locals alike strolling in for a cuppa with their family, young adults having their brunch gatherings or solo patrons simply relaxing with newspaper in hand. The menu is a mix of western deli like sandwiches and pastas and traditional Vietnamese items.

Coffee Selection

What's your morning poison? Dark Coffee, Coffee with Milk and Milk with Coffee (yes there's an obvious difference), there's something for everyone. I enjoyed mine in the middle while the girls were happy with theirs too.

Beef Stew with Baguette

Served in a thick, tomato based gravy that thankfully didn't turn too watery upon stirring, the tender beef pieces were a joy to eat with a pinch of peppery heat. And of course, fresh and crispy sliced baguette to mop all that gravy up.

Prawn with Spicy Mayo on Baguette

Another simple pleasure that was oh-so-good, the crunchy prawns were drizzled with a buttery, spicy mayonnaise that was again, perfect with baguette. Omnomnom.

Can't remember the prices here, but it should probably be at most SGD10 per person. With the colonial touch and delightful bites, Ciao Cafe is surely worth waking up to. Good morning!

Ciao Cafe
74-76 Nguyễn Huệ, Bến Nghé
Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Tel:+84 8 3823 1130
Directions: Walking along the main Nguyễn Huệ road, the cafe is a little further down the roundabout at Rex Hotel. Not hard to spot with its cheerful yellow facade at the corner building of a small lane.

Taken with Nikon D70
Wednesday, February 12, 2014

L'usine: More Than Your Regular Cafe

When it comes to cafe hopping in HCMC, I was definitely spoilt for choices. Coffee chains aside, there are so many cafes full of character that I wished I had enough time to explore them all. As recommended by MsSkinnyFat, I dropped by L'usine for its celebrity-like status.

Hunting down L'usine is a challenge indeed. Walking along Dong Khoi Street away from Notre Dame Cathedral, you will first see an art arcade on your right. Enter the alley to hit the dodgy-looking cross junction filled with motorbikes then turn right again to walk straight before seeing the sign pointing upstairs to L'usine. Climb the stairs to enter a different world altogether.

With the hustle and bustle of people and coffee grinders, L'usine reminded me much of our PS cafe. The mix of eccentric furnishings and random old-school decor gave the place a unique charm. Friendly English-speaking staff made ordering a breeze too.

Red Velvet Cupcake (55,000VND ~ SGD3.30), Iced Coffee (45,000VND ~ SGD2.70)

Being here in the late afternoon, I had the cupcake which was cheerfully pleasing; light and spongy with a healthy dose of cream cheese. Perfect to go with my cooling glass of traditional Viet coffee.

Foosball, anyone?

Besides a cafe, L'usine also hosts a retail shop within its space, filled with stuff trendy enough for you to make fashion statements. At about SGD6 for a teabreak and a wide selection of sandwiches/all-day-breakfasts, L'usine is definitely worth a visit to feel the young, fashionista side of HCMC.

151 Dong Khoi St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tel: +84(0)8 6674 3565

Taken with Nikon D70
Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Phở Hòa Pasteur: Pho-licious Start to The Day

2013 saw me travelling to Ho Chi Minh City for the first time, and I loved the place so much that I went back for a second round within two months. Pho (Rice Noodles), being the representative dish that most of us known of Vietnamese cuisine was on the top of my must-eat list. I couldn't be more thankful when my Vietnamese friend brought me to Phở Hòa Pasteur for breakfast.

Located near the city centre, Phở Hòa Pasteur has been widely publicized as the place to go for authentic pho by both tourists and locals alike. With a shophouse of its own, the ground floor can be pretty stuffy in HCMC's weather, so head upstairs for the air-conditioned hall and sit among Vietnamese having a hearty breakfast before heading to work.

Tra Da (2,000 Dong ~ SGD0.10)

The staple drink of Vietnam, iced tea (pronounced as "Ja Da"), is readily available at almost all restaurants and served either free of charge or cost close to nothing. Pretty nice to cool you down.

A table spread of snacks to go with your pho (Pay for only what you eat) and raw vegetables to soak in the soup. Can't tell what was what really, but I followed suit and randomly plucked some too.

Beef Combination (60,000 Dong ~ SGD3.50)

Might as well just go for the "all-in" combo while I'm there! Flavourful half-cooked beef slices, bouncy beef balls, tender beef briskets and crunchy beef tripes, all so good in a light yet addictive broth which I slurped nonstop. Noodles were narrower than most variants I have seen, excellent with a smooth and slightly springy texture.

At less than $4 per person, Phở Hòa Pasteur serves an hearty meal and raises my benchmark for a good bowl of pho. Awesome first stop in HCMC!

Phở Hòa Pasteur
260C Pasteur Street
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tel: +84 8 3829 7943
Directions: Its not that hard with Google Map and walking along Pasteur Street, but you always have taxi for the easy way out.

Taken with Nikon D70