Quán Cơm Gà Thượng Hải, Restaurant, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Food in Vietnam is wonderful and much more diverse than you might experience traveling through this Southeast Asian country. In particular, as a tourist you may end up in rather – from a touristic perspective – popular locations. I guess travel agencies and hotels have arrangements with certain places, like for instance one of my favorite restaurants in Hanoi, the Four Season (https://avdwineandfood.net/2015/04/15/four-season-restaurant-hanoi/). However, there is obviously much more to discover. All kinds of street food anyhow. Restaurants meant only for locals, for the establishment, some with a modern western style, others more like a typical cantina (the Vietnamese version of fast food). Aside from of all these, there are a few around the country with particular traditions – sometimes because they offer specialties that you cannot find anywhere else or because of their concept and simply, how long they have been around. Remember my review about Bánh tôm Hồ Tây (Bánh tôm Hồ Tây, Seafood Restaurant, Inn and Biergarten, Hanoi) at the West Lake in Hanoi. This is one of the oldest and most famous places in Hanoi.
Recently my Vietnamese friends suggested a destination which is beyond debate: “Quán Cơm Gà Thượng Hải” (21 Võ Văn Tần, 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh) Vietnam. After my simple but very delicious lunch, I knew that it would not have been worth debating, at all. What a special place for chicken and duck – but also for its simplicity and bold setting. It is a bright room – a little bit like a fast food restaurant. At the end at of hall you see an open kitchen – roasted ducks and chicken hang on a cross-bar which partially block the view into the cooking area. Very tightly-placed tables in a few rows – the smallest are for four people – spark the imagination: you are sitting at a long table among all other guests. The room is white, the furniture is white and the floor is light-colored, if I remember correctly. It is not a room you would stay in for very long; in this sense, it is really too much like a cantina or fast food restaurant. If you copied the design and style and moved it to New York, Berlin or Moscow, it could really turn into a hip place at least for lunch immediately. (I should think about it).
You can read the menu on posters on the wall or in a very colorful handout. Almost every dish is photographed – and these pics certainly stimulate your appetite. There is a wide variety of dishes with duck and chicken, but you also find some with pork. Aside from this, they have many different spring and summer rolls and vegetables, too.
Unusually for Vietnam, each guest gets their own individual meal. Even if you order something that is normally a side dish, it is severed more or less as a separate dish.
In our case, it was very delicious water spinach together with shrimp. Another unique and great icon of this place is the way they serve rice. When I saw this half light-brown bowl I thought it was half of a kind of Vietnamese bun. It’s not! It is rice – cooked in a special pot. The outside burns on the hot material of the pot. It requires either a lot of attention or just a lot of experience to take the rice out at the right moment. The rice comes out in the form of a half ball and the outside is crispy, inside warm and a little bit sticky. It is very appealing. Because you need rather glutinous rice for this method of cooking, the half bowl is pretty rich.
As Europeans, we ordered one fried duck and one fried chicken while my Vietnamese partners preferred boiled chicken.
As you can see: the plates are well-proportioned. Some additions come on small side-plates, from the aesthetic point of view, one of the best presentations of food in Vietnam. And the food: perfect if not excellent: without too much spice or too many condiments – the duck tastes like roasted duck, the vegetables are fresh and straightforward, the light sweetness of the rice bowl is a fantastic addition. Only the spring rolls of course contained many different greens and herbs. Just perfect.
This is a place I really like to recommend under any circumstances. One Saigon Beer, such a duck and something up front from the large selection of “nam” – what a wonderful lunch.
The owners of the restaurant are really visual guys. Not only do you get the menu – as I said – almost as a picture book, but Quán Cơm Gà Thượng Hải also has a cool webpage: http://comgathuonghai.com/home/index.php?language=vi. I don’t understand a single word but it is fun.