Saturday, May 4, 2013

Lemon Grass: A Taste of Vietnam

A Taste of Vietnam
Take your taste buds on a Vietnamese tour at Lemon Grass Restaurant without all the trouble and expenses of flying all the way to Vietnam ( unless you've got the time and the moolah ). Check out Mustachio Ventures for travel tips to Vietnam.

I have read such good reviews about Lemon Grass Restaurant on Trip Advisor that my expectations were above average and I'm happy to say that I wasn't disappointed. 

Lemon Grass is located on the ground floor at The Terraces, Ayala Mall, Cebu City. While most of the restaurant is rather neutral, the bold green hues of the furniture and place mats really pop. The decor looks sleek and refreshing.

Check out this list of 40 MUST-EAT Vietnamese dishes from CNN Travel to guide you.
Gỏi Cuốn, Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls (PHP 185.00)

Bánh Mì, Vietnamese Baguette (PHP 185.00)

 Phở Ga, Herb Chicken Noodle Soup (PHP 235.00)

 Cà Phê Dá, Vietnamese Coffee (PHP 75.00)

Bánh Mì, Vietnamese Baguette (PHP 185.00)
WOW. Where have you been my whole life?! This was by far the best sandwich I've ever had. No wonder the Banh Mi is so popular. I was skeptical with this dish at first because I wasn't really in the mood for a French Vietnamese-style sandwich for brunch but this baguette has proven me wrong.

Very simple ingredients but chopped full of flavor and harmony - crusty french baguette spread with chicken liver pate on the base, cilantro mayo spread on the top bread and filled with thinly sliced beef, fresh chopped cilantro leaves, thin shavings of sweet pickled radish, lettuce and carrot, drizzled with sweet chili sauce. I love it so much I'm seriously considering going back there today just for this baguette.

It was a perfect fusion of French and Vietnamese ingredients. Highly recommended!

Gỏi Cuốn, Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls (PHP 185.00)
I also loved these healthy and delicious Vietnamese fresh salad rolls. Goi Cuon is a tightly wrapped rice paper filled with greens, carrots, herbs, a small slither of pork meat, vermicelli noodles and shrimp that's served with a spicy peanut Hoisin dipping sauce. Sooo much better than the vegetarian fresh spring rolls at Royal Krua Thai because it has more filling plus it has shrimp but then again the price is also PHP 85.00 more.

KILLER peanut dipping sauce! I could eat it by the spoon. It was SO good!

 Phở Ga, Herb Chicken Noodle Soup (PHP 235.00)
I once bought instant Pho Bo noodles (imported from Vietnam) at a supermarket and boy, the broth in that packet was very strong and savory from the herbs, especially from the cinnamon. So I try to stay away from Pho Bo since then. But I'm sure the restaurant version is heaps better so maybe I will try it one of these days.

I thought I'd try the lighter chicken version but still not without some apprehension. Luckily, the broth of the Phở Ga was clear and milder than that instant noodle but still well flavored. It was quite delicious. You can smell and taste the spices and herbs but not overpowering. It was not too greasy and the pieces of chicken meat came minus the skin which was great as I hate soft chicken skin. The amount of rice noodles was just right right. It was a good filling portion but the price is above average (still cheaper compared to Little Saigon and Big Bangkok's Pho at PHP 250).

The chicken noodle soup is served with brean sprouts, basil leaves, sliced chilies, a spicy red chili sauce (not sure if it's Sriracha) and that brownish sauce on the far right tasted like fermented Korean bean paste. It was one happy big ol bowl of good-for-you soup!

I decided to just add a little bit of everything to the soup. Spicy is always good.

Cà Phê Dá, Vietnamese Coffee (PHP 75.00)
Vietnamese Coffee is simply put - coffee mixed with sweetened condensed milk. Finely ground roasted coffee is brewed and filtered using a single metal cup called a "phin" into a glass that contains a small amount of sweetened condensed milk. Usually served cold with ice cubes but in this case, I was in the mood for a hot coffee.

See the "phin" sitting on top of the glass and the sweet condensed milk at the bottom?

Add the ground coffee to the base of the "phin" then press. First you pour just a small amount of hot water into the phin to brew the ground Vietnamese coffee for a minute before adding more hot water .

Wait for it to drip into the glass VERY SLOWLY. 
drip. drip. drip.

Once it's finished, stir the coffee and condensed milk together. 

I don't really want to say anything bad about this restaurant because I LOVED the food there! The ingredients were fresh and the food was very good. Everything went well except for one major problem. A FLY inside the restaurant. It landed on one of the chopsticks (that I didn't use) while I was busy taking pictures of the coffee and it hung on for dear life it might as well have been glued to it. I couldn't shake it off. It was really gross. I try to put the idea that it might have landed on my sandwich without me noticing out of my head. Almost 24 hours have passed but my stomach feels fine so maybe that fly just liked the chopsticks. But other than that, the food was delicious. The service was quick enough but I cannot say the same if it was during busy lunch or dinner hours.