62 Ly Tu Trong, Ho Chi Minh City
T: (08) 3822 1599
Centrally located on Ly Tu Trong near Ben Thanh Market, Vy Da Quan hits all the right notes for your typical streetside Vietnamese restaurant. Blue plastic chairs, wet napkins and beers with ice are all there. And if you peek down Nguyen Trung Truc and notice the smoke, you'll get a hint of what makes this joint so special: grilled meat.
Amenities are few at Vy Da Quan but at these prices, you wouldn’t expect anything too fancy. Blue plastic chairs ensure that you’ll be dining no more than a few feet off the ground; the loos are rather stinky (if you aren’t used to local facilities, there is a Wrap-N-Roll across the street that you can pop into). This doesn’t seem to deter the crowds though as the place is always packed.
The menu is bilingual, even though the helpful and attentive staff don’t speak too much English. Beer is relatively cheap and runs from 22,000 to 26,000 VND. The menu is expansive and features Vietnamese staples, but it’s the grilled items that you want to order. Walk 10 metres down the side of the restaurant and you’ll find pork ribs (70,000 VND), chicken wings (80,000 VND), or a whole fish (250,000 VND to 350,000 VND) being grilled to perfection. Every barbecue item is slathered in their delicious house-made sweet and spicy chilli sauce, which caramelises and sticks to practically everything it touches. Just remember that good things come to those who wait. And you will wait. A whole fish can take up to an hour so remember to order it straight away.
This restaurant also does something we have never seen anywhere else in the country. If you’ve ordered the fish and managed to scrape it clean, you can ask the staff to then deep-fry the bones. Once fried, the bones are drizzled with fish sauce and sent back to your table. The frying process will give the bones a bit of crunch, with a rather pumpkin-like taste. Definitely worth a try.
Other notable items we’ve tried are the clams in a lemongrass broth (95,000 VND) and fried chicken wings doused in fish sauce (100,000 VND). While the menu favours carnivores, the vegetarian options are varied and very tasty. The fried morning glory with garlic (60,000 VND) has whole bulbs of smashed garlic complete with skins mixed in, with the crunchy vegetable and fried tofu with lemongrass and chillies (50,000 VND) one of the best in town.
Vy Da Quan is one of those joints that gives Vietnam its well deserved reputation as being a paradise for people who love to eat, so long as you are willing to rough it a bit.
By Vinh Dao
Last updated on 21st August, 2014.