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Nha Trang

Eat and meet

Nha Trang

Vietnamese
To try real street food you’ll have to get out of the tourist centre. There are some great eats within walking distance, or a short scoot by xe om.

Thit bo nuong la lot is a popular late afternoon street snack. Beef is wrapped in lo lot leaves and grilled, with the leaves imparting a herbal flavour to the meat while holding in all the juices. You can try it on Bach Dang Street, at the corner with Mac Dinh Chi, for 4,000 VND apiece. Good luck sitting on the miniature plastic stools. Here you can also get another tasty snack, banh trang nuong, grilled rice paper topped with ingredients like quail egg, green onions and minced mushrooms for a crunchy, smokey, savoury treat — only 7,000 VND each.

Nem nuong Ninh Hoa is a feast-with-friends, eat-with-fingers type of dining experience. Nem nuong is found throughout Vietnam but this particular style originated in Ninh Hoa district and is now famous in Nha Trang. Your table will be filled with platters of grilled pork meat balls, lettuce leaves, rice paper, fresh herbs, chillies, rice vermicelli and garlic. You make your own wrap and dunk the roll into the sweet-spicy fish sauce. There are two large restaurants on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, west of Nguyen Thien Thuat. Look for the signs Quan Nem Ninh Hoa Nha Trang. A set works out to be around 40,000 VND per person.

You can also get nem nuong at Ngoc Tien at 59 Le Thanh Phuong, a block south of Yersin Street, and at Nem Dang Van Quyen at 16A Lan Ong Street, a few blocks west of Michelia Hotel and the ocean. Nem Dang Van Quyen does a delicious bun thit nuong, a filling noodle salad that’s the perfect cheap lunch on a sweltering day. Cold rice vermicelli noodles are topped with grilled lemongrass pork, fresh herbs, peanuts, shredded lettuce and a sweet, salty dressing — a bowl is only 40,000 VND. The joint occupies two spots across the road from each other.

Another street eat is banh can, mini rice flour pancakes topped with your choice of egg, fresh or dried meat and seafood, cooked in round pans over coals. The pancakes are served with fatty pork meatballs and shredded green mango — to eat, add all three into the bowl of dressing with chopped green onions so all the flavours get soaked up. Banh can is found all over Nha Trang (outside the tourist centre, that is), so you should have no problems finding it. You can try it at 51 To Hien Thanh, open 14:00 to 21:30. We also tried them at the daytime sidewalk stands across the entrance of Ponagar Tower.

Nha Trang is famed for its seafood (hai san). For a great experience, head to the seafood restaurants just north of the Tran Phu bridge, on Thap Ba Road and on Pham Van Dong (the road along the ocean). These joints are well worth the 10-minute drive from downtown. Supplied by local fishing villages, you’ll find an assortment of flopping sea creatures ranging from familiar to alien: giant prawns, squid, urchins, angry looking crabs and clams of all shapes and sizes. We’d recommend the restaurants along the ocean road – they are extremely popular with large tourist groups and it can sometimes feel like a feeding frenzy, but the ocean breeze coupled with the killer view of the entire bay makes up for it.

In particular, Long Chai Hai San Dai Duong has an awesome al fresco terrace with a great selection of fresh seafood. This restaurant is packed by 18:00 and the prices are a bit higher, but we were thoroughly impressed with our plates and judging by the happy finger licking going on around us, we’d say it’s worth it. Take a xe om or taxi, or until 19:00, you can take the white and blue city bus #4 (Hon Xen – Vinpearl), for 7,000 VND per ride. From the downtown core, catch the bus headed north along Nguyen Thien Thuat. After the bridge, the bus will pass Ponagar Tower, head east along Thap Ba Road before travelling along the coast where the restaurants are. There’s a stop close to Long Chai Hai San Dai Duong.

Seafood is priced by weight. Eye the display of creatures in buckets and on ice, point at what you want and ask the price per kilogram. With the price confirmed, indicate how much you want, watch them weigh it and write it on your bill. Then the most important decision: how you want it cooked. You can usually choose steamed, barbecued, fried or hot pot. A plate of steamed squid, plus four giant prawns fried with shallots – enough for one person – plus Saigon beer to wash it all down cost us a reasonable 360,000 VND.

Another local Nha Trang must-try is bo nuong at Lac Canh, grill-it-yourself barbecue at 44D Nguyen Binh Khiem, located in the north end of the downtown core, just south of the bridges. Grill well marinated beef at the table over a coal brazier. It’s a smoky, hot, crowded, lively and memorable experience. Don’t wear anything you care about. There are other meats and seafood available but this place is famed for the beef. Open from 09:00 until 21:30.

Life in Vietnam wouldn’t be life without pho (pronounced feu) and it, along with other types of noodle soups, are easily found in the mornings in Nha Trang. If you want to indulge in a 35,000 VND bowl of fragrant and flavourful beef pho (pho bo) for lunch, head to Goc Ha Noi (meaning “Hanoi Corner”) at the corner of 142 Bach Dang and To Hien Thanh Street. This cute eatery also serves large family-style dishes, large bowls of soup and stir-fry to be shared and eaten with rice. Dishes range from 60,000 to 110,000 VND. Look for the charming leafy patio in front.

Given the bay’s bounty of fresh fish, it’s no surprise that bun ca is a Nha Trang specialty. It’s a simple noodle soup with rice vermicelli, fish broth and fish filet and/or fish paste meatballs. Try it on Bach Dang Street or at the central Xom Moi market in the morning. Also keep your eyes peeled for banh canh cha ca, a soup with thick noodles and slices of fish cake.

Vietnam can be hard on vegetarians (chay) as many classic Vietnamese dishes and street food usually has some sort of meat, seafood or fish sauce. But herbivores on a budget will love Nha Hang Chay Thien Y, a local joint at 79 Yersin Street where you can try versions of classic Vietnamese eats like lemongrass grilled “pork” and “beef” wrapped in lo lot leaves, with mock meat made of soy and bean curd. The flavours are good and we didn’t miss the meat. No English is spoken here so do your best ordering from the menu or pick and choose from the display, which has trays of bamboo shoots, a wide variety of veg and pickles. We loaded up a plate that came with rice and a bowl of soup for only 25,000 VND.

Lanterns has enjoyed popularity for many years and the popularity is well earned. The food is good, the prices are reasonable and the service is a well-oiled machine, so it’s no wonder hotels often point guests to this centrally located restaurant. Exposed brick, bamboo and the namesake orange lanterns create a pleasant atmosphere but once this place gets packed with tourists – as early at 18:30 – it feels more like a bustling banquet hall than an intimate sit-down restaurant. Still, the service never lets up and here you can get an introduction to Vietnamese specialties like kho to, marinated meat slow cooked in a clay pot with herbs and spices (99,000 VND), and big sharing-type mains like seafood hot pot or barbecue, with a coal brazier brought right to the table so you can grill your own fish and meat (199,000 VND for two). For those who want to try typical street food, they have a selection including bun thit nuong, rice noodle salad topped with grilled pork, fried spring roll, herbs, peanuts and a sweet, salty, garlicky dressing, very reasonably priced at 65,000 VND. Get there early or be prepared to wait. Lanterns also has a half-day cooking class available every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (US$25 per person, minimum two people) and an afternoon walking street food tour (200,000 VND per person).

International food
When it comes to restaurants in Nha Trang serving international food, you are spoiled for choice, and if you want to try Russian food without having to actually venture to Russia, this might just be the place to do it; you will have no trouble finding Russian restaurants and there’s even a “Small Armenia” eatery. We admit, we don’t know much about Russian fare, but these joints seem to be extremely popular. For non-Russian or Vietnamese food, check out these excellent eats.

For your Indian food fix, head to Ganesh. You may recognise the name since there are six other locations in Vietnam, but we’d rank this joint as one of their best. The restaurant is simple and clean, with lively music and side-by-side portraits of Ho Chi Minh and Gandhi. The menu features north and south Indian dishes, every sort of flatbread imaginable, real paneer and generous portion sizes ideal for sharing. The amazing naan is the size of a flying saucer and meat dishes like chicken tikka masala (108,000 VND) come loaded with boneless chicken. Appetisers start at 40,000 VND, vegetable mains range from 80,000 to 90,000 VND. There’s an air-conditioned room upstairs or sweat it out on the ground level.

If you are craving meat and potatoes, head to La Casserole, a small Swiss restaurant with a menu of favourite Swiss dishes done well – get your sausage, schnitzel and schweinsfilet. Mains hover around 140,000 VND and you won’t go home hungry. We can’t imagine who would want to eat a bucket of hot cheese in Nha Trang weather but if you do, authentic Swiss cheese fondue is available and it looks and smells divine (440,000 VND for two people). The proprietor, who hails from Luzern, is welcoming, friendly and attentive.

With just six tables on a second floor terrace overlooking Hung Vuong Street, cosy Greek eatery Pita GR Restaurant is fantastic value. Grab a souvlaki (Athens-style, with french fries stuffed in the pita wrap) for only 50,000 VND. Mains like mousakas, kalamakia and large Greek salad topped with a brick of feta start at 90,000 VND. This was one of the few places where service staff asked us how our food was, and the free dessert was a most welcome touch. Not surprising, Pita GR is busy and bustling, so expect to wait for a table.

If the black and white photos of classic Italian movie stars doesn’t lure you in, the sights of happy diners chowing down on enormous thin-crust pizza probably will. Da Fernando is Nha Trang’s go-to Italian eatery and it doesn’t disappoint with its pizza, house-made pasta, ravioli, gnocchi and risotto, all hovering between 135,000 to 155,000 VND. The central location and small dining area means Da Fernando is crowded so unfortunately you may feel rushed – it’s rather disconcerting when the owner keeps pointing at your table to waiting guests as you eat your meal. It’s too bad because the food is worthy of lingering over Italian style, with many courses.

Beachside
Opened in 2015, Ana Beach House is Evason Ana Mandara Resort’s stylish, classy beachfront restaurant with a simple menu of seafood, Mediterranean and Vietnamese dishes. The design and decor is worthy of the beautiful beachside setting which you can enjoy curled up on a hanging sun bed or while digging your toes into the sand. The enticing tapas are reasonably priced, with a selection of four costing 150,000 VND. After bites of warm oyster, octopus a la plancha and deep-fried scampi, choose from seafood and grilled meat mains, starting from 220,000 VND. More economical is the pizza (150,000 VND), and gluten0free dough is available.

Relaxed beach hangout by day, chic lounge by night: Sailing Club Nha Trang is a classy beachfront restaurant-lounge that maintains a relaxed, casual vibe with a breezy open terrace that abuts the sand. Clusters of low tables and chairs, bed loungers, beanbags on the beach and candlelight create an intimate setting. The place is gorgeous at night, especially when the full moon is rising over the ocean. Food here is not for those on a tight budget but for your money you do get elegantly presented meals, hearty portions and posh ingredients. A main, like braised lamb shank or oven roasted sea bass, will set you back 250,000 to 350,000 VND. Giant salads cost 185,000 VND, while fancy wraps are 145,000 VND. It also has a full Indian menu and select Vietnamese dishes. Some nights they do a beach bonfire. Things rev up and get more raucous after 21:00 when the place begins to morph into a club and the dance floor becomes packed – this is one of the few places in Nha Trang allowed to remain open late. Located near the southern end of the downtown core.

Just south is Louisiane Brewhouse with five beers on tap (a Pilsner, crystal ale, witbier, dark lager and red ale) which you can order in five sizes, including a five-litre beer tower. Enjoying a pint beachside is pleasant if you can ignore the Rick Astley on loop and the hopeless service. Waiters put in orders via walkie-talkie but trying to flag someone down is a challenge; go for the beer, skip the mediocre food. There’s live music some nights and daily beer happy hours (yes, plural). In the daytime, you can use their central swimming pool for free and hang out on sun loungers available to rent for 40,000 VND.

Nightlife
Nha Trang has a reputation for nightlife, though it is surprisingly limited as most bars and clubs popular with tourists are compactly found within the tourist centre and people tend to end up at the same few places that are opened past midnight, including Sailing Club Nha Trang mentioned above. The bars feel alike, with cheap booze luring backpackers, and a quick walk around will reveal which bar has the happening vibe du jour. And you never know who or what you’ll come across, as Nha Trang attracts a diverse mix of people, from scruffy budget travellers to those dressed to the nines.

With nightlife comes those who prey on unguarded and inebriated tourists. Crimes range from petty theft like pickpocketing and bag snatching to more serious and physical threats from men, women or men dressed as women. If a bar looks dodgy, it probably is. Most of the following advice is just common sense: don’t carry valuables or large amounts of cash, secure your wallet, watch your drink, don’t wear expensive jewellery or watches, avoid being alone on the beach at night and don’t expect to find your wallet after you’ve passed out drunk.

Opened in 2015, Skylight: 360 Sky Deck and Rooftop Beach Club gives guests a 360-degree view of the city and the bay from the 43rd floor of the Best Western Premier Havana. The view is impressive and unparalleled. Access to the Sky Deck costs 100,000 VND and that includes a welcome drink. A rooftop beach night club is set to open in 2015.

Never trust a bar that poses a question to entice you away from your better judgement. Why Not Bar? openly declares its questionable existence but at least you know what you are getting yourself into: cheap bucket drinks with cheap alcohol, shady staff, pickpockets and a lively mob – this joint is always jam-packed by the time the sun goes down, which is why we’ve included it. Online reviews of this place are delightful: “I can give you a thousand reasons why not!” “Awful complete dump” and “Why not close this place down?” It is what it is. Be warned.

Booze Cruise Sports Bar &Grill has a flatscreen just about everywhere you turn so patrons can catch the game. As the name suggests, this isn’t the most refined place or a place you’d take the kids, but the crowd is just loud and obnoxious, not wild. There’s mediocre pub grub, some live music nights and yes, plenty of booze: draught beer, drinking games, buckets and happy hour.

Ana Beach House: Tran Phu Blvd at Evason Ana Mandara; T: (058) 2244 809; www.sixsenses.com/evason-resorts/ana-mandara/dining; open daily 08:00-22:30.
Booze Cruise Sports Bar &Grill: 110 Nguyen Thien Thuat; T: 905 719 519; www.bcsportsbar.com; bcdelivers2u@gmail.com; open daily 06:00-03:00.
Da Fernando: 96 Nguyen Thien Thuat St, south of Biet Thu St; T: (058) 352 8034; hanh_2000nt@yahoo.com; open daily 10:30-22:30.
Ganesh: 82 Nguyen Thien Thuat St; T: (058) 352 6776; www.ganesh.vn; ganeshvietnam@gmail.com; open daily 11:00-22:00.
Goc Ha Noi: 142 Bach Dang, at To Hien Thanh; T: (058) 3511 522; www.facebook.com; open daily 06:00-22:00.
Lac Canh Restaurant: 44 Nguyen Binh Kiem St; T: (058) 821 391; open daily 09:30-21:30.
La Casserole: Bien Thu 36; T: (0125) 771 7173; restaurant-lacasserole.webnode.com; open Mon-Sat 10:00-15:00 &17:00-23:00.
Lang Chai Hai San Dai Duong: 10 Pham Van Dong St; T: 0903 582 876.
Lanterns: 34/6 Nguyen Thien Thuat St; T: (058) 2471 674; www.lanternsvietnam.com; lanterns_vn@yahoo.com; open 07:00-22:30.
Louisiane Brewhouse and Restaurant: Lot 29, Tran Phu; T: (058) 3521 948; www.louisianebrewhouse.com.vn; info@louisiane.com.vn; open 07:00-01:00.
Nem Dang Van Quyen: 16A Lan Ong, west of Michelia Hotel; T: (058) 382 6737; www.nemdangvanquyen.com.vn; sales@nemdangvanquyen.com.vn.
Ngoc Tien: 59 Le Thanh Phuong, south of Yersin St; T: (058) 381 0482; open 10:00-22:00.
Nha Hang Chay Thien Y: 79 Yersin St, east of Ba Trieu; T: (058) 3813285
Pita GR Restaurant: 7G4 Hung Vuong St, between Biet Thu and Tran Quang Khai St; T: (0162) 770 6852; www.facebook.com/PitaGreekRestaurant; open daily 11:00-22:00; khv-since@yandex.ru.
Quan Nem Ninh Hoa: 39 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, west of Nguyen Thien Thuat; T: 0906 400 500, (058) 352 3446
Sailing Club Nha Trang: 72-74 Tran Phu St, southern end of downtown core; T: (058) 352 4628; www.sailingclubnhatrang.com
; info@sailingclubnhatrang.com; open daily 07:00-02:00.
Skylight: 360 Sky Deck and Rooftop Beach Club: 38 Tran Phu Blvd at Best Western Premier Havana Nha Trang Hotel; www.skylightnhatrang.com; info@skylightnhatrang.com; open daily 16:30-23:00;
Why Not Bar: 24 Tran Quang Khai St; T: (058) 3522 652; open until 04:00.


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