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Y Thao Garden – what USD10 can buy you in Hue City?

Highly recommended by 2 travel guide books (Lonely Planet & Hong Kong published 长空旅游系列 021 - 越南食玩买终极天书本2010˜˜2011 全新Update版), we dropped in Y Thao Garden for our first dinner in Hue, Vietnam. We’ve had a long day – woke up at 4am, flew from HCMC to Hue at 6am flight, and then just in time to sign up last-minute on the 8am Perfume River Cruise day tour upon checking into Binh Minh Sunrise Hotel – and now just couldn’t wait to have a good dinner and unwind.

It was July 17th 2010, a Saturday. Far away from home.

  • Restaurant Name: Y Thao Garden
  • Location: 3 Thach Han, the Citadel, Hue, Vietnam
  • GPS: 16.468009,107.567117 (click for Google Map location)

It is just a 10-minute cab ride from the hotel. The restaurant is set in a mansion surrounded by tropical garden with lush of green, which is welcoming. Walking straight in, no one was there at the reception to greet us. We walked around and took some photos of the tropical garden, and after like forever (well, 2 minutes but felt like forever) the waitress showed up and lead us to one of the 2 main dining halls, which were both without any diners at that time (~6pm).

The restaurant runs set menu, and there is only one lone set – take it or leave it – that costs USD10 (not inclusive of beverages). No À la carte whatsoever. Ordered 2 sets and a couple of local bottled Huda Beer, we set off to take more photos of the beautiful garden. More after the fold.

Fried Spring Rolls on peacock!

It didn’t take long for the first dish to come – it is fried spring rolls on toothpick poking on the back of a peacock with its head carved from carrot, and body from a pineapple. Nice presentation but the spring rolls are far from the best that we have had in Vietnam – they are not bad, really. Genuis about serving this dish first is actually the toothpicks which I can use throughout the meal. Of course we didn’t eat the peacock head (carrot) – the whole peacock probably will be recycled for the next table…

And here goes the subsequent dishes:

Vegetable ABC soup with carrot and potatoes - I expect a better soup to be served (herbal chicken soup at least?) in an "imperial cuisine" experience. Hard to imagine the Hue Emperor sipping away ABC soup during dinner 200 years ago in the nearby Citadel just a stone-throw away from this restaurant. (Photo taken at ISO5000!)

Steamed Shrimps go well with the provided dipping sauce but the shrimp is overcooked and felt rubbery and hard - but again, good presentation. The only thing in Ben's mind at this moment is probably why I am taking such a long time to take photos before he can start peeling the shrimps!

Now this is delicious - Hue pancake with meat and vege inside. 1 piece is never enough but can't order another one!

Menu says this is "mix fig salad with pork and shrimp", to put on top of the provided prawn crackers. This is another great tasting dish, but can we have more??

To me this is the best - steam rice wrapped in lotus leaf served with grill beef. Open up the lotus leaf cover, the aromatic lotus smell of the steam rice fills the air where there are some lotus seeds dotting the rice. Beef is done just right, juicy and tender. Keeping up in the food presentation front, there is a lotus flower bud that comes along and brings some pink.

The strawberry-lookalike is actually made of green bean paste covered in thin jelly, not bad in taste and presentation.

The meal is closed out with pineapples and tea.

Verdict?

The food is actually not bad but portion is small – note that both of us shared the 4 shrimps, the small plate of lotus steam rice & grill beef and “mix fig salad with pork and shrimp”. It is more like a food tasting than a full fledged fill-your-stomach meal. It is also by far the most expensive meal that we have had in Vietnam. That said, if you are visiting Hue City, I’d still recommend this restaurant – just lower your expectation, and you will have a wonderful evening here. Forget about “imperial cuisine”, I wouldn’t want to become the Emperor if these are the best food on plate.

Happy dining!

Categories: Travel - Beyond Malaysia Tags: ,
  1. Hojai
    August 2nd, 2010 at 22:09 | #1

    No wonder tat rest. took ages to greet you! The chef need extra hands to present to you with those craving of phoenix, setting of desserts… and you took a few minute to finish off those arts!

  2. August 2nd, 2010 at 22:23 | #2

    They probably recycled the phoenix, or have it mass produced in one of the gazillion factories in Vietnam :-p

  1. August 1st, 2010 at 13:39 | #1