Ngon Villa Restaurant is as much of a a walk-through history as it is a dining experience. The Vietnamese restaurant is housed in a restored colonial mansion that originally belonged to a French army captain.
The menu consists of around 120 purposefully selected dishes, from the deep south to the mountainous north of the country, to show off Vietnamese cuisine to its fullest and tying each dish to its own region and culture.
I visited Ngon Villa with a friend after having noticed it many times in the past. I waited for my companion to arrive in the red tiled courtyard, under a tree decorated with multi-coloured hanging lanterns. Inside, one of the staff was playing music by Yiruma on a grand piano.
The atmosphere inside is warm and welcoming, and a constant soundtrack of talking, laughter and clinking cutlery is accompanied by the piano, giving the place a real buzz.
Once my friend arrived we were greeted and ushered upstairs to a table in a more private section of the restaurant, and given a menu each. The waiting staff spoke fluent English and were eager to explain the dynamic of the menu to us.
The menu begins with three pages explaining the history of the food, the building, and the concept of the restaurant. Each dish is categorised as N, C or S for northern, central or southern, and is accompanied by a description in both Vietnamese and English. The menu is well arranged and provides enough variety while also being streamlined so that you don’t have to pore over it for half an hour before choosing.
Our waitress began by pointing out the buffet option. For VND360,000 you can select as many dishes as you want from most of the menu, and for VND580,000 per head, the whole menu is opened up to selection. Looking around at the other diners’ plates, it immediately struck me as good value, but my companion had eaten recently, so we decided instead to choose individual dishes from each region of the country.
An image of the second floor at Ngon Villa
North to South
We ordered the southern chicken curry (VND225,000), hot and sour vegetable soup (VND95,000), Hue jellyfish salad (VND95,000) and pho cuon (VND95,000).
First to arrive was the vegetable soup, one of a good selection of vegetarian and vegan-friendly dishes on the menu. It lived up to its name, and was neither too sweet nor too sour; the bowl was average size, but the vegetables were fresh and cooked well.
Next was a wooden board decorated with flowers, and on it were our Hue jellyfish salad and the pho cuon. I’ve never eaten jellyfish before so was a little worried about the generous portion of cucumber, carrot, sliced jellyfish and crumbled peanuts in front of me, but one bite into the rubbery jellyfish and its vegetable companions was enough to put my mind at ease. While the jellyfish itself wasn’t bursting with flavour, the accompanying ingredients made a well-rounded salad.
I live in Truc Bach, an area of Hanoi famous for its pho cuon, so for me this was the real make or break, and I have to say, it’s the best go at the dish I’ve ever tasted. The beef is perfectly tender and peppery, and the whole roll goes down an absolute treat.
Finally, our southern chicken curry arrived, served in a pot with a bowl of rice on the side. The chicken was very tender and not at all dry, as well as generous in quantity, and the sauce had adequate flavour; overall it was a satisfying end to our feast.
All the dishes we tried on one table. A veritable feast
After we finished, we were brought the bill by the waitress who had been serving us for the evening; she’d just been having a conversation with two other diners about their experience in Vietnam, and was equally friendly and talkative with us.
Throughout the night I often noticed the staff being open to explaining each dish to diners, and their attentiveness really added to the experience.
Ngon Villa Restaurant is located at 10 Tong Duy Tan, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. You can view their menu at ngonvilla.com or go to facebook.com/ngonvillarestaurant
Food — 14
Service — 15
Décor — 14
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
Photos by Sasha Arevieva