You Tell Us | May/June 2011
Back from Vietnam: A Recommendation
When my parents and I decided to travel to Vietnam, I knew it was going to be the trip of a lifetime. We went to Hanoi first, where we took a trip up Ha Long Bay on a junk boat called Halong Violet [from $410 for one night; halongviolet.com]. It’s a traditional Asian sailboat that’s been outfitted with six ultra-luxe suites, and it’s fabulous. The highlight of our trip was visiting Cua Van, a floating fishing village, where the chef caught fresh fish to cook for us to eat. At night, the boat pulled up to an ancient cave with unbelievable stalactites and stalagmites for a traditional barbecue dinner served under romantic candlelight.
I also visited Ho Chi Minh City, and this is where I found the most amazing restaurant ever. The name is Cuc Gach Quan [$ dinner, $20; en.cucgachquan.com], and it was recommended to me by a friend who works in Ho Chi Minh for the American consulate. The owner is an extremely friendly and gracious—not to mention glamorous—French Vietnamese woman named Tu-Tho Thai. She went to college in Paris, and when she moved back to Vietnam, she bought a French colonial house with her architect friend and they renovated it in a cool, eclectic way. It feels more like visiting your very chic, eccentric friend’s house—like the Vietnamese version of where the Royal Tenenbaums would live.
They kept the home’s original layout, so it is divided into three rooms. We ate in the former library, but there is also an attic on the top floor where people can eat on a beautiful four-poster wooden bed. From our table, we were able to look out to the backyard, which has a small pond filled with fish and is decorated with plants and candles. Tu-Tho put thought into every little detail, even the silverware and dishes, which are all antiques or created by local artisans.
The exquisite setting would have been enough, but the food was the best part. It’s traditional rural Vietnamese cuisine—in other words, peasant food—which is very rare to find. We started with a concoction of mixed fruit juices—made with some fruits I had never even heard of—that was perfectly refreshing and delicious. Then we had homemade tofu Bolognese; I usually hate tofu, but this was amazing. Other standouts were the sweet-and-sour squid, beef with zucchini flowers and lightly fried soft-shell crabs. Even the soy sauce—homemade, of course—was divine. It was by far the best meal I had in Vietnam and possibly one of the best of my life.
The only problem with telling you about this is that there were no tourists. Now will it be filled with Americans the next time I return? Who cares—as long as the decor, food and experience remain the same, it will be perfect.
—Contributing editor Jeff Klein owns the landmark Sunset Tower Hotel in Los Angeles and the City Club Hotel and The Monkey Bar in New York.
I read your story on bedbugs in the March/April issue and want to let you know about a wonderful moving company I recently discovered. Most movers use padded blankets to wrap furniture—they’re cushioned, protective and can be used over and over again. When the furniture gets unwrapped, the blankets are thrown back into the truck to be used for the next move. Movers love them—and so do bedbugs. If bugs are in the padding that’s used to move the furniture, chances are they’ll be included in the next move as well. And we all know that once bedbugs settle into your home, they are very hard to get rid of. With bedbugs invading New York City, the high-end company Upstairs Downstairs Moving [upstairsdownstairsmoving.com] now uses disposable, double-layered paper pads for every move to protect their clients from the possible bugs of any previous ones. The double layers give added protection and are combined with shrink-wrap and cardboard to prevent damage. Most importantly, they are used once and discarded.
New York, NY