Cuc Gach Quan – Country Fare in a Colonial House

L1060778The boss and I were more adventurous on our second night in Ho Chi Minh City: we wanted to check out yet another much-recommended restaurant but it  was located way up north of District 1 (which is basically the city centre) and frankly, there’s no way we were going to walk there in the dead of night. So thanks  to our favourite concierge, he got us a taxi, gave the cabbie the address and told us the fare shouldn’t cost us more than 40,000-50,000 vnd or US$2. And off we went. It was a nice long 15-minute ride in fact – thank God we didn’t walk! – and it was fun seeing the lighted shops along the way and the hundreds of motorbikes zooming past (some with a family of four!), in the comfort of a cab.

Cuc Gach Quan, at 9/10 Dang Tat, Tan Dinh, is located in a quiet neighbourhood far away from the bustle and hustle of the city centre. So popular it has become, that they have actually bought the unit across the first outlet. Though it is well-known for its country-style of dishes, apparently it got famous because Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie ate here years ago. Well, we didn’t come here because of them. (Would be cool if they were there when we were!) After such a long journey, we were thinking, “The food better be good!” Well, the cool decor was already a good sign. It’s housed in a 2-storey building that has a huge fish pond and al fresco seating the front yard, and there’s a staircase leading to the second floor where guests can lounge around in a, er, lounge area. Inside the dining area is very hip, with cool Art Deco like feature walls, while ol- fashioned cookery utensils and accessories are used to deck the shelves and tables.

L1060784The menu was designed as a thick scrapbook with, oddly, the Union Jack on it and loads of pages packed with food items, occasionally with photographs. Again, it was hard to know what to choose but going with our business associates’ recommendations, we went with the dishes you see above.

I’m officially in love with clam dishes in Vietnam. If I thought the Lemongrass Clams at Ngon was outstanding, the Clam Soup at CGQ which is cooked with dill, starfruit and a dash of lemongrass (picture above bottom left) was quite a stirring experience too. The soup was flavourful and made the fragrant fluffy rice – I like pouring soup into my rice – even better tasting! We also had stirred fried prawns with Vietnamese chili, long beans and onions (bottom right) which was tasty, and one of their signature dishes, the  lemongrass tofu (top left), which featured lovely soft and smooth squares of tofu that have crispy skin and covered with a generous sprinkling of deep-fried lemongrass. The only item which we were unsatisfied with was the beef with long beans and passion flower – the long beans were nice and crunchy, but the beef strips were very thin. Should have gone for the soft shell crab or stewed pork instead.

Because the rice was so good and both of us had almost 3 bowls of it, we didn’t have space for dessert. Which is a pity cos they have all these big fruits all lined near the entrance and we are sure they do mean desserts here. Well, there’s always next time, as the saying goes. For now, it’s just feel good to be able to track down a top restaurant in a foreign city even though you are strapped for time! It’s all good…


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