A Filipino singer-songwriter croons his way through a number of bittersweet romantic ballads, complimenting the softly lit ambience and earthy tones of the interior. With upholstered cushioned stools in place of chairs, together with my dining partner I exhibited perfect posture to order a lychee martini and Tom Collins along with the roasted tomato soup with basil salsa and Parmesan cheese, and prawn cocktail to start.
Presented in a tall margarita glass, the latter starter consisted of five medium-sized, de-shelled grilled prawns placed along the rim of the glass with thinly sliced lime wedges, while the inside contained shreds of lettuce, a mixture of chopped and wedged tomatoes, and the cocktail sauce. It was a fine approximation of the British classic; with the slightly burnt chargrilled flavour of the prawns and sharp zest of the lime adding extra dimensions to the soft, sweetness of the terracotta-coloured sauce.
However, the tomato soup could only be described as neutral at best. It was wholesome but very mild and lacked any seasoning. The basil salsa, Parmesan, and even basic salt and pepper were undetectable.
Luckily, our cocktails were superb. The Tom Collins was sweet, tart and effervescent, if a tad syrupy, while the lychee martini possessed the basic hallmarks of a decent lychee martini; simply, it tasted and smells like lychee (fragrant, juicy and sub-acidic).
Our mains included the traditional coq au vin (French red wine stew with chicken served with a choice of mashed potatoes, fries or toasted bread) and a half-kilo of Belgian clams steamed in a sweet and sour tamarind boullion with fries.
The coq au vin was sensational. The braised chicken was unbelievably tender, literally falling off the two thighbones, while the red wine stew, though thicker than I’d previously encountered, burst with delicious miniature explosions of garlic, thyme, onion and a deep Burgundy sweetness that enhanced the otherwise bland mashed potatoes.
The bowl of clams, which came accompanied by a large side of skinny fries, was plentiful in portion but small in size. The bouillon was a little too watery for my liking, weakening the sweet and sour tamarind flavour, though the potent clumps of chilli, parsley and assorted herbs largely masked this dish’s shortcomings.
Finishing with an order of Belgian waffles with chocolate sauce and scoop of vanilla ice cream, the evening ended on an unfortunate note. With a raft of fresh customers, it took nearly 30 minutes for our dessert to arrive, and when it came it did so without the ice cream. We aired our grievances to the otherwise fantastic waiting staff who quickly, though incorrectly, returned with a scoop of chocolate ice cream. Errors aside, the waffles were scrumptious and the ice cream was luxuriously thick and creamy without being overly sweet or bitter.
Lychee Martini: VND120,000
Tom Collins: VND120,000
Tomato Soup: VND75,000
Prawn Cocktail: VND75,000
1/2 kilo tamarind clams: VND120,000
Belgian Waffles: VND115,000
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