A good starting point
160 Pasteur, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
In the midst of Saigon’s downtown areas of interest, walking distance from the Reunification Palace and the Notre Dame Cathedral, you might suspect Nha Hang Ngon is a highly priced tourist trap. However, with surprisingly low prices and a large selection of well-made Vietnamese dishes, it’s a good spot to introduce you to the city’s cuisine.
Set in a yellow, colonial style villa, Nha Hang Ngon looks fancy; the restaurant’s decorations give it an exotic atmosphere, with colourful fabrics hanging from the ceiling, large leafed potted plants in corners, and a pond in the middle of the restaurant romantically lit.
The restaurant has seating areas inside and out, but honestly you might not find much of a difference between them, with both fan-cooled only, the inside with ceiling fans and the outside with regular fans. This keeps the restaurant warm, but not unbearably so.
The staff is well adjusted to working with the tourist crowd, and walking through the door you’ll be greeted by a row of servers waiting to seat you. If you have questions about the menu or want recommendations, your server will be happy to help.
You might need help, as the menu here is impressively dense, with page after page of text-only listings. Most any dish you could find on the street can be found here, from hu tieu and pho to bun thit nuong and goi cuon, which makes it a good place to start if you’re worried about the safety of Saigon street food. Prices are obviously higher than what you’d get from a street cart but surprisingly comparable to food at Ben Thanh Market, with a majority of dishes starting around 52,000 VND. If you’re looking to try a few things, it won’t hurt your wallet too bad.
Their bun thit nuong is particularly good, with higher quality vermicelli noodles than what you generally find on the street, and their wrap dishes are also nice, as they have clean, crisp greens to add to their properly cooked meats. Soups are decent too, especially if you’re a fan of sweeter bun bo hue.
If you’re a fan of watching food being prepared, the outer ring of the restaurant is filled with numerous stations where various dishes are created. When you make your order, the server simply walks to the appropriate station to get your food. With so many cooks in the kitchen, the wait time for food is impressively short.
The restaurant is constantly buzzing, carrying a heavy load of patrons throughout the day but with plenty of seating spread across the restaurant you’ll rarely have problems finding a seat.
By Max Murta
Last updated on 7th July, 2014.