This is a confession. For April’s Mystery Diner I ate at the vegetarian restaurant, Aummee, twice. What can I say? The experience was so pleasant (and the menu so large), that I felt a one-time visit could not possibly do it justice. Exceptionally clean with a tasteful decor of lightly polished wood in decorative patterns and just-right lighting, Aummee offers diners a relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy a peaceful lunch or dinner.
Housed in a cheerful yellow building on the cute street of Chau Long in Hanoi’s Truc Bach area, diners are welcomed by the restaurant’s bubbling fountain and feature wall of bright green plants by the entrance. At the time of dining, a large Tet tree filled with bright yellow blossoms (matching the restaurant’s colour scheme) was taking up a large corner of the room. Bright red and gold envelopes dangled from its branches.
No Mock Meat Here, Thank You Very Much
Some may say that as a vegetarian I am naturally biased towards restaurants specialising in vegetarian fare. While it’s true that I get pleasure out of opening a menu and finding I can order anything and everything, I would argue, however, that this only makes my standards higher.
Mock meat, not only a staple but too often the bulk of menus in many vegetarian restaurants in Vietnam, is a food group I generally try to avoid. So upon opening Aummee’s extensive menu and discovering not a trace of that strange, fleshy soy stuff, I was thrilled.
On my first visit, dinner with friends, we ordered more food than we knew what to do with. But in the end, we had no trouble devouring the fresh and tasty dishes. The meal started with appetisers of fried wontons (goi thuong) — enjoyable with a somewhat strange filling of jicama and cheese; lightly fried mushroom-filled triangles (trang khuyet) — delicious and beautifully presented; and a marine fungus salad (vi bien). Despite the strange name, the salad was definitely a highlight and the mildly flavoured seaweed (or marine fungus) added a pleasant texture and subtle flavour to the otherwise traditional Vietnamese green papaya-style salad.
Our mains consisted of two clay pot dishes — potato (ngoc thach) and eggplant (sac tim). As one of the hardest vegetables to cook properly, eggplant dishes inevitably end up either salty and soggy or tasteless and rubbery. The chefs at Aummee, however, cooked it to perfection. Accompanying the clay pots, we shared pad thai (mien xa) — a successful union of Vietnamese-style noodles and the famous Thai recipe. We also had a portion of Aummee’s ‘special rice’ — the shiitake mushroom with hints of ginger, lemongrass and dried seaweed adding flavour, nutrients and texture to the Thai jasmine rice.
Returning a month later for a casual lunch with a friend, I was once again greeted warmly by the staff, who remained unfailingly polite and attentive throughout the meal. Popular with local professionals, the restaurant was noticeably livelier during my second visit.
With only the two of us I was (unfortunately) more restricted on what I could order, but still made full use of the wide-ranging menu, withstanding the temptation to order all the same dishes again — except for the Aummee rice, which I couldn’t resist.
We started with a plate of beautifully presented taro spring rolls (nem Aummee) and waky pumpkin salad (duyen que). I’m still a little unsure exactly what waky pumpkin is, but it was delicious nonetheless. For mains, we split a very satisfying Thai-style red curry (ca ray do). We licked our plates clean.
In celebration of the New Year, our waiter invited us to take a red envelope dangling from the Tet tree. Choosing one with pretty gold blossoms I opened my lucky envelope to find a member’s card — 10 percent off all future bills. Guess I’ll be (very happily) seeing you again soon, Aummee.
Nha Hang Chay Aummee is located at 26 Chau Long, Ba Dinh, Hanoi. Prices range from VND50,000 for entrees to VND80,000 for mains
Food, Decor and Service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15.
13 — 15 extraordinary to perfection
10 — 12.5 very good to excellent
8 — 9.5 good to very good
5 — 7.5 fair to good
0 — 4.5 poor to fair
The Word reviews anonymously and pays for all meals