I’d like to say that I stumbled across Green Taste while driving up Dang Thai Mai, one of the few streets in this part of Tay Ho that still feels like a country road, because this sounds way cooler and more authentic than how I actually discovered it, which was on Facebook. However, in my defense, all three tables in the small room, decorated simply with bamboo furniture and warm lighting, were also full of expats. Perhaps like me and the friend who accompanied me, they were drawn to the colourful, appetising photos that the restaurant posted on its page.
The menu at Green Taste is a creative melange of Italian (linguini), Vietnamese (spring rolls), Malaysian (char kway teow) and other assorted cuisines, redone to be lighter and ostensibly healthier. We started off with fresh spring rolls (VND55,000), which were indeed light: while traditional spring rolls usually contain shrimp and pork, there was nothing to these morsels except for bun noodles, lettuce, carrots and a sprinkle of crushed salted sesame. They were reasonably tasty, but the price felt a little steep for such a dish, especially because one could easily prepare it at home.
Getting it Right
This is a common feeling when dining at Green Taste, where the food still has the rough edges of home cooking, although it also boasts the home cook’s sense of unrestrained creativity. In your own kitchen, you can feel free to invent what you want, without following the limitations of structured cuisine. At a restaurant, this makes for a fun — if occasionally disappointing — dining experience.
My stir-fried rice noodles with beef and bok choy (VND135,000) demonstrates both the pros and cons of this approach. Served in a hefty bowl, the dish includes an ample rainbow of vegetables: leafy bok choy, sliced mushroom, thin slivers of carrot. It’s the dish one might cook up after taking a spin through a local wet market. However, while it might be healthier than, say, pad Thai, it’s also blander: rather than a liquid sauce, the noodles are flavoured with only a few scattered sliced bird’s eye chillis and fermented black beans. Slurping them up, I couldn’t help thinking a bit longingly of how I could buy three massive plates of pho xao swimming in flavourful gravy for the same price.
If only the noodles had been introduced to the pumpkin stir-fried with garlic (VND50,000), a delicious side dish that ended up being the best part of the meal. You can’t really go wrong with the garlic stir-fry technique; when pumpkin is added, it’s an ideal winter dish, and one that is healthy without being flavourless. I also ended up stealing bits of my friend’s teriyaki chicken (VND125,000), another enjoyable main in which tender dark meat was simmered in a slightly sweet soy-based sauce and served with simple steamed rice and a bit of salad.
The only dessert offered on the night we were there was creme caramel (VND40,000), which was decent but not spectacular, pretty much the same thing you’d find on Hang Than or any other street stall. The banana cinnamon yogurt drink (VND50,000), however, was a nice surprise. Thick, creamy and heavily scented with cinnamon, it was far better than your average lassi.
The small kitchen, run by an Australian-Vietnamese couple, was clearly overwhelmed by the three tables. Every time one of them brought a plate out, it was accompanied by a strained, apologetic look. Perhaps the menu is too sprawling. Narrowing the selection down to the list of four daily specials written on the chalkboard might be a good idea until the kitchen gets in stride. It’s nice to have a lot of options, but not at the expense of flavour. The restaurant is called Green Taste, after all.
Green Taste is at 18C Dang Thai Mai, Tay Ho, and facebook.com/greentastevn
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