The atmosphere is understated and there really isn’t a schtick at play here. You come to Coriander for the food, not the entertainment, and there is something charmingly pleasant about that simplicity. In a city where restaurants go in and out of business in the blink of an eye, few earn the right to be confident. Coriander is one of those restaurants.
A New, Old Tradition
Phan Le Quynh Huong, the Vietnamese chef and owner of Coriander, moved the restaurant from its longtime location at 185 Bui Vien to its new digs in the noticeably quieter junction of Bui Vien with Tran Hung Dao in late July. With the location change there have been some growing pains, but both loyal customers and first-timers still fill its two storeys.
Huong’s staff is available but not pushy, and one can usually expect a table promptly. The décor is unassuming. There is a tranquil mix of green bamboo wallpaper, deep reds, yellows and traditional elephants that come together with pictures of delicious Thai dishes and beautiful Thai scenes. These line the walls to create to a soothing environment conducive to a gratifying mealtime experience. The restaurant is surprisingly quiet, given its proximity to two major streets, and there’s no blaring Top-40 taking away from the overall appeal. The food arrives promptly and hot, visually appealing and surrounded by a delectable aroma.
Coriander’s pad thai is sweet but not cloyingly so. The flavours meld seamlessly, with bursts of shrimp, egg, peanuts and chives making distinct appearances in the dish, while the perfectly cooked noodles and crisp bean sprouts act as loving foils to each other. The tom yum soup is flavourful with a slight sweetness and definite spice that makes it memorable and worth trying.
The green curry is zesty, with a complexity of taste sensations few spicy foods can claim. Beneath the heat there is a robust brightness, which manages to complement a rich coconut undertone that does not distract from the other flavours.
If these dishes tweak some déjà vu in your taste buds, it’s because they’re part of the same consistent cuisine Coriander has been practising for the past eight years. And they’ve earned the right to escape the party of tourist-strip Bui Vien. As its long-time patrons know, Coriander is not just worth trying, it’s worth coming back to. — Jacklynn Blanchard
Coriander is at 16 Bui Vien, Q1, or deliverable through eat.vn/ngori