[Vietnam] Nha Trang Eats
The wifey and I are going to Nha Trang in a few months and we are wondering what good eats we should look into. I have just one stop on my itinerary, Lac Canh (44 Nguyen Binh Kiem), which El Jefe recommended on another thread. Is there anything else we should look into? We are staying in the Ana Something Five Senses Spa a bit north of Nha Trang, but we don't mind traveling into the city for food. Any price range is fine. We usually like to mix up some hole in the walls with high-end dining.
Ok, here's our experiences for anyone who's interested. We are staying at the Ana Mandara, which is south of tourist central, but a healthy walk or short (25,000 - 30,000 Dong / $1.50) cab ride away.
- Rusty Nail Bar. Across the way from Ana Mandara, there's a really terrible bar / cafe called The Rusty Nail, owned by a Brit and his Vietnamese wife. DO NOT GO THERE. The food is honest to goodness terrible -- some of the worst we had in Vietnam -- and the service is unbelievably slow (though pretty nice). It took about two hours for our simple dishes to come.
- Across from the Ana Mandara there is also a French patisserie with cakes, cookies and brownies. The day I went, the power was out so they couldn't bake fresh croissants. They had some for sale, but the woman working there was very honest in telling me they were a bit stale, so I shouldn't buy them. Major points for them in a country that often makes it a national sport to fleece foreigners. The cakes we tried (tiramisu and chocolate) were surprisingly excellent.
- Gia. This restaurant is in tourist central, but both tourists and locals go there for a really excellent high end meal. The food was authentic and the service excellent. We loved our barbecued items, the summer rolls, other crepes and salads that we tried there. Fair prices.
- Lanterns. Also in tourist central. This restaurant benefits an orphanage so you're eating for a good cause. Our guidebook wrote of it as a place for authentic food, but if it was authentic, it wasn't all that well made authentic. We tried a clay pot mackerel dish and a yellow beef curry. Both were just okay.
- Banh mi stands. They are everywhere and cater to the many young backpackers passing through. Most of them were terrible and not nearly as good as some we have in NYC with their stale bread and lack of pickled vegetables. (Maybe they thought foreigners wouldn't know the difference!) They also tried to charge tourists somewhere between 15,000 and 50,000 Dong. The actual price for locals and hard bargainers is 4,000 to 7,000 dong. One stand that broke the trend and (1) was actually honest and (2) served a decent banh mi complete with toasted bread and pickled veggies was in front of a fruit stand on the corner of Trang Quang Khai (a curved road) and Biet Thu (runs east / west).
- Lac Canh. Guidebooks seem to rave about it, but we actually didn't think the barbecued meats were all that special. I did really like the cold squid and vegetable salad. What left a bad taste in our mouths, though, was the fact that they were really into charging us extra for everything, something that I'm pretty sure they don't do for locals. They charged us for our napkins and white rice (both of which came without our asking for them) and they didn't bring us the lettuce and greens with our barbecue that everyone else seemed to get. We got the only on-the-table grills, which were much hotter for the diners. Other tables of locals got free standing grills. Finally, we tried to change our order about ten seconds after ordering to take off one of our plates. The woman whom I spoke with said she was absolutely clear that we didn't want it and I communicated that we did NOT want the dish in English and Vietnamese (spoken and written). Of course they pretended like they didn't understand and brought the dish anyway and charged us for it. Bottom line: the food is decent, but it wasn't worth the dishonest service. Prices were about the same as at Gia, but the decor was far less nice.
- Truc Linh (the original). We'd read about Truc Linh 2 as a good place for local fare. Maybe it's good (it's right across the street), but Truc Linh was awful. I had barbecued tuna that was so overcooked it was about the consistency of shoe leather.
- We picked up a good bowl of pho at a place called Can Tin Nha Khach, whose addres I have to look up, again, by looking through our pictures. It was outside of touristville, near Dam Market, and not in any of the guidebooks.
On the whole, our impression is that there's an astonishingly high percentage of sh*t food in this town. It's good to do your research before you go anywhere.
I'm not sure I really recommended Lac Canh. It's definitely a fun place to go with a large group. The cooking is as good as the cook -- you.
I've had excellent pho at hole in the wall stands in Nha Trang, but most of the other meals I've had in Nha Trang have been in restaurants trying to do western food, but not doing a good job at it.
I'm sure if you explore the Vietnamese restaurants, you'll find something better.