Nhậu: a modern Vietnamese hideaway
03 Apr 2019
Address 12 Circular Pathway, Central
Nestled in a peaceful area of Sheung Wan is chef Que Vinh Dang’s new restaurant Nhậu (pronounced ‘now’). The name is a play on the tonal nature of Vietnamese, meaning both “together” and “late night eats”. Offering diners the Vietnamese equivalent of an Izakaya experience, the restaurant showcases the chef’s French culinary training, and the potential of authentic Vietnamese flavours.
Before opening Nhậu, Dang sent his team of chefs to Vietnam for an immersion in authentic Vietnamese cuisine, and 80 per cent of the fare has been inspired by traditional dishes. The remaining 20 per cent is a mix of his New York upbringing, a dash of Latino influence from the Bronx, and a sprinkle of the rest of his travels en route to settling in Hong Kong almost two decades ago.
The restaurant, therefore, is a far cry from the typical Vietnamese restaurants found in Hong Kong. For one, Dang purposely excluded pho and his take on the beloved sandwich banh mi is in bite-size taco form. My recommendations
From the ten dishes we tried, notable highlights included the Hamachi bowl, a refreshing take on the popular Vietnamese combination of fish, dill and turmeric. Dill is infused in the rice noodles and sprinkled on top as a garnish as well.The Slow-cooked pork belly Bánh Xeo is Dang’s unique take on the popular stuffed savoury rice pancake. Here the pork belly is slow-cooked overnight then grilled with fish sauce (sourced from Vietnam), served with a crispy rice pancake and homemade pickles. The aforementioned Banh mi rice tacos are currently done with pork, but vegetarians can opt for Impossible ‘meat’. Nhậu will launch chicken and fish tacos soon.
To finish, try the Coffee ice cream sundae - three generous scoops of ice cream with sponge cake on the bottom that contrasts with the crunchy chunks of chocolate on top. The initial taste of the aromatic full-bodied Vietnamese coffee evolves to a rich chocolate in a few decadent spoonfuls. Dang is considered an ice cream expert and at the restaurant it is churned in-house; also available in pandan and coconut flavours.
A regular hangout
While Nhậu aims to elevate the typical Vietnamese dining experience, Dang has intentionally created a comfortable, relaxed dining space, with interiors inspired by French Indochina.
As a result it is a place that you want to come back to, and on a regular basis, to try more of the delicious food. Prices have also been kept reasonable (HK$120-$280 per dish), and the shared dish philosophy certainly adds to the convivial atmosphere.