Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Restaurant Review: An Nam 安南

Location: Lee Gardens One, Causeway Bay
Type of food: Vietnamese
Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

I travel to Vietnam’s twin cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, for work frequently. I have spent enough time there to know a little about – and become a big fan of  Indochine food. For a long time, lovers of authentic Vietnamese cuisine like myself had few places to go in Hong Kong. We headed to Nha Trang for a quick bowl of pho and Golden Bull if we desired fancier fare. That changed a few months ago, when An Nam set up shop at Lee Gardens One where Lawry’s steakhouse used to be. The newcomer is said to be inspired by the royal cuisine of Hue, the imperial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty.

An Nam at Lee Gardens One

An Nam made a good first impression. The interior was designed by Steve Leung, award-winning designer who did the Mango Tree restaurants and revamped the Fairwood fast food chain. From the laurel green walls to the European floor tiles and plantation-style window shutters, Leung’s new project exudes a colonial sensibility emblematic of Vietnam’s blended cultural heritage. Lighting consultant Tino Kwan adds his magic touch by giving the space a relaxed yet sophisticated mood. Connecting the entrance to the main dining room is a long hallway where tasteful artwork hangs proudly on the walls and waitresses in traditional ao dai tunics sashay back and forth like runway models.

The delightful décor has an extensive menu to match. Traditional finger food like cha gio (deep fried spring rolls) and bun cha bac (grilled pork with vermicelli) is just the way it is served in Vietnam, except at An Nam the presentation is more refined and the prices are steeper (each at $108). The signature pho features tender slices of Angus beef in a light broth infused with cinnamon and cardamom. At $98, it is probably the priciest beef noodles in town but it is worth every dollar. Other must-tries include the roasted chicken and grilled beef rolls. The latter is a Vietnamese favorite that is not easy to find in Hong Kong. Patrons are well advised to stay away from Cantonese dishes like the sautéed beef cubes and stir fried morning glory. They are dull and forgettable by comparison.

Dim lighting and a tasteful decor

Like the Thais, the Vietnamese people are not big on desserts. You won't be missing out if you skip the sweet course altogether. Spend that money on drinks instead. The wine list at An Nam is reasonable: a respectable French white goes for just over $300. The bar also serves up a variety of conventional and signature cocktails. Dinner for two with drinks will set you back around $450 per head ($300 sans drinks), which, considering the authentic dining experience you get in return, is not a bad deal at all.

The signature pho bo

1 comment:

  1. Great review - and it looks very yummy. It's now on my list of restaurants that I have to try!