Ho Ch Minh City,Hanoi, Hoi An, Luang Prabang and Ventianne
Any good recommendations for restaurants in these cities? Will be dining on our own and would love to experience some great meals that could range from street food to moderately fancy.
Also, any must see places or markets (or for that matter, tailors)?
For something different in Ho Chi Minh, try out Quan Tri Ky (236k Le Van Sy, Q. TB). Just a 10-15 minute taxi outside the city center, but great grub. They specialize in 'de nuong' which is marinated goat slices that you grill at your table. Pick and choose a little of this or that, and chase with Sai Gon beer. Grub on some 'so diep nuong mo hanh' (grilled scallops with fat drenched scallions) or 'canh ga chien nuoc mam' (Viet. style fried chicken wings).
In the downtown area, XU restaurant on Hai Ba Trung street does fancied up food with Vietnamese ingredients, up the street at K-Cafe for sushi, Reflections in Caravelle hotel for euro/asian, Black Cat for burgers..
Hoi An is just choke full of touristy restaurants serving the exact same thing. Can't help you there.
Ok this is an old post but just thought I'd add on a new place in Hoi An that just opened: Viet Lac.... and shameless plug as I just started managing there. Anthonyrza is right in that Hoi An has a zillion touristy restaurants serving good Vietnamese food but we are offering international cuisine. I"ve lived and worked in the SE Asia region for 6 years and am a huge fan of Vietnamese food- don't get me wrong, I love it- but hoi an needed something different (and street food here is not great... Hanoi/Saigon have much better local scenes) Would love for any chowhound-er to come by and give us a shot. www.vietlachoian.com
Eat on the street and in the markets. In Lao, don't pass up the dried squid sold from wheeled carts with the squid hanging on a clothesline. Try to get to some more remote area maybe upriver from Luang Prabang to look for a traditional but somewhat fancy Lao meal. Ask for the platter of greens to include various leaves from the fields and forest.
Absolutely go to Tamarind. A wonderful way to familiarize yourself with Lao cuisine. And their drinks are amazing. Try the bael fruit tea, the banana cinnamon coconut shake, and the lemongrass ginger cooler--all delicious and unusual. We liked it so much we ate there twice AND did their cooking class (which was also great, in a beautiful location, and well worth the 28 bucks).
There is also a great Lao BBQ joint that the waitress at tamarind told us about. We went twice (sensing a pattern??). It's hard to describe because I don't know the name but if you get yourself to the Apsara hotel, and turn left out of the hotel (so that the river is on your right) you will see an alley on the left about 50 meters down. They usually have a signboard in Lao. Go up the stairs and the place is on the left. Get the Sam Sen (literally "three layers" of pork, like a fattier bacon) and make sure to "deglaze" the pan so that the porky juices get down into the soup! We also hardboiled the egg instead of cracking it in like the locals. Best egg ever.
There is a lady who sells khanom krok at the entrance to the night market food street. Also on that street, get the whole grilled fish from any of the vendors. Delicious.
Also from street vendors, try the rice crackers/cakes and the river vegetable sheets covered with sesame (looks like nori paper). There are also delicious little twist cookies covered in palm sugar that we loved.
Ikon Club is a nice place for a drink. Owned by a hungarian lady, she'll make you any drink you want if you're craving one after all the beer lao.
We were not at all impressed by Quan an Ngon. We had better versions of a lot of the food at various street vendors, all the food seemed like it had been sitting out, the service is lackluster and it's just generally very mediocre. The setting is very lovely at night though.
We thought the pho at pho 2000 was delicious, as were their spring rolls. Didn't get to pho pasteur, sadly.
Try and find a vendor selling sticky rice stuffed with banana covered with coconut milk and tiny tapioca pearls. Our favorite dessert and any time snack. We found them mostly around lunchtime.
Banana cake was also a favorite. They're everywhere, but there's a stall in Ben Tranh market that was easy to find, by the butcher section.
Enjoy!! We loved both places SO much...
We loved the meal we had at the Hue restaurant recommended on this board, out in district 3. (can't remember name right now...) Very unusual flavors, unlike anything we had in Vietnam. Rice with tiny crab, jackfruit salad, open-face dumplings with shrimp paste, BBQed chicken--everything was delicious.
Eat the fruit in Vietnam and Laos! It's all delicious, much better than the states. Pomelo, longan, milkfruit, guava, etc.
>>Also from street vendors, try the rice crackers/cakes and the river vegetable sheets covered with sesame (looks like nori paper).
That Lao nori-like snack is called Kaipen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaipen)
You can buy it online from Lotus Foods:
In Luang Prabang, our most memorable meal was at Tamarind Restaurant:
Don't forget to visit the morning "Fresh Market" in Luang Prabang as well:
Oh forgot about Hanoi. We enjoyed Bun Cha Dac Kim aka #1 Hang Manh, not necessarily for the Bun Cha, but for the Nem Cua Bể.
We never made it to Cha Ca LaVong, but were told by many that it is over-priced and you can get better elsewhere. We ended up with a nice meal at Cha Ca Thang Long on 21-31 Duong Thanh.
Just spent over a week in Ho Chi Minh and had a few good meals at these places:
Quan an Ngon on Pasteur is fairly cheap and you can get a taste of all sorts of different streetfood in a really nice setting ($10-$15 for two)
The Refinery in a little alley off hai ba trung right across from the park hyatt is a super cute french bistro - the salads are amazing! $10 for lunch for two
Head to Ben Thanh market for shopping and for the food stalls. there is also an alley of shops right across from ben thanh and there is a lady with a cart who makes the most amazing banh mi (vietnamese sandwiches) with grilled pork skewers - incredible!!
Temple Club is fun and the ice cream place underneath is delicious - a little pricey but a good night out
the italian restaurant at the park hyatt was nothing to write home about at all but they have a bar at the pool that is really nice to have a drink at before or after dinner
the best pho is at pho hoa at 260 pasteur in district 3 - absolutely delicious and about $4 for 2
if the food stalls scare you a bit try wrap and roll for lunch - locations across the city. tasty and clean.
for a great middle eastern experience - very romantic and cool - try warda on mac thi buoi - delicious food!
you can also check out wordhcmc.com for more suggestions!
Hope you have a great time:)