Little House of Dreams, Dempsey

Because we were celebrating a dear friend's birthday, we got a cake from the Little House of Dreams, adjacent to Ben & Jerry's. The little cafe looks like a tea party set-up in the astro-turfed garden of a little princess, so totally girly I almost expected My Little Pony or a unicorn to pop out.

The Fragrant Earl Grey Cake ($55) was so much prettier than it tasted. The blush buttercream confection was too saccharine, and the bergamot aroma was overpowering. Should have gotten an ice-cream cake from Ben & Jerry's instead.

Little House of Dreams 
Blk 8 Dempsey Road #01-14
Tel: 6472 4977
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 11am to 10.30pm;
Fridays from 11am to 11pm;
Saturdays from 9am to 11pm;
Sundays from 9am to 10.30pm
Website: www.littlehouseofdreams.com

Nuong Da Thanh, Da Nang

This upmarket eatery is quite the popular haunt of many an expat. Street food purists will likely scoff, but I really liked the food here. It's clean (well, cleaner than most Vietnamese eateries anyway), windy (so we weren't perspiring even though it was open-aired), furniture was at regular adult-height (instead of the typical dwarfed chairs), and the seafood was fresh (what you see swimming in tanks will be what's served on your table barely 20 minutes after you take a seat). Prices reflect the premium set-up, but we thought it value-for-money and reasonable.

The Pomelo Seafood Salad (VND95,000), or goi buoi hai san, was an assortment of poached prawns (deshelled for convenience) and squid, both perfectly cooked so they were springy yet soft, fresh mint, julienned carrots, and lashings of golden fried shallots. Fantastic salad, and a must-order.

The succulent Grilled Chicken (VND320,000) or ga nuong lu, redolent of the smoky grill, was wonderfully imbued with the spice of garlic and aroma of lemongrass. Another must-try.

The Countryside Fried Rice (VND95,000) or com chien dong que, was 2 parts, of which 1 was an earthenware cooked tumeric-flavoured rice topped with luscious hunks of barbecued pork ribs.

The second part was like its gravy, a heady, robust sauce spiked with dried red chillis, dark soy, and candied wedges of pork belly. And a simple hard-boiled egg.

Complimentary salted roasted peanuts for nibbling.

The restaurant facade, it's at the corner of a fairly busy junction.

Try and get a table on the second floor, overlooking the road, so you can watch the world go by.

Nướng Đà Thành
105 - 107 Nguyễn Văn Linh, Quận Hải Châu, Đà Nẵng, Vietnam 59000
Tel: +84 91 385 4358 / 0905 754 358
Open daily from 11am to 11pm
Facebook Website


Ben & Jerry's, Dempsey

We stopped by Ben & Jerry's for some post-dinner desserts. It may be overflowing with kids galore, but the ice-cream flavours are staggeringly awesome. You can pack a whole array of flavours exclusive to its brick-and-mortar shop, which are unavailable retailed in the supermarkets. 

The Salted Caramel Blondie ($6.50) was my favourite, even if some of my friends thought it too saccharine. Sweet cream ice-cream that was like a salt-enhanced vanilla base, a salted caramel swirl, and blonde brownies was just perfection in a cup. Disclaimer: I'm nutters over salted caramel so I'm totally biased in favour of anything salted caramel.

For those who prefer something light, the Mango Mango ($6.50) was tempered sweetness, with a fruity twist.

Inspired by the banana split waffle cup, a friend got the Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz ($10.50 for regular), a base of coffee ice-cream mottled with espresso bean fudge chunks, and topped with bananas, fudge, and peanuts.

Ben & Jerry's
8 Dempsey Road #01-14
Tel: 6473 3231
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 11am to 10.30am;
Fridays from 11am to 11pm;
Saturdays from 9am to 11pm;
Sundays from 9am to 10.30pm

Nam Beo Seafood, Danang, Vietnam

Seafood is a must-eat in Da Nang. While the most visible of seafood restaurants are along My Khe Beach, where the prime real estate is, we also noted that these restaurants were mostly populated with tourists. I suppose it's like seafood restaurants in Clarke Quay, which no self-respecting local patronizes, and also regularly attract CASE complaints for overcharging tourists. I can only expect that the entire stretch of sea-front seafood joints flanking the main beach would be overpriced, and quite unlikely to be authentically delicious.

According to the locals, walk a little further inland, away from the main beaches, to the street of Vo Van Kiet, which is lined with seafood options crowded with locals. We popped into one, just because the origins of its name tickled us so much. Apparently, said seafood joint was named after its owner, affectionately call "Fat Nam" by the locals. In fact, its logo of a rotund guy is actually a caricature of him!

We thought the seafood adequate, commendable actually, but still prefer the Singapore style of cooking seafood. I'd still fall back on our chilli crabs, Teochew steamed fish, sambal prawns, and crisp fried baby squid. 

Highly recommended was a starter of Fig Salad punctuated with fresh mint, peanuts, and shallow slivers, and spiked with fish sauce and chilli. Clean and lively notes that whetted the appetite for more. 

We loved the Grilled Baby Squid smoky and juicy, simply seasoned with sesame, chilli, and spring onions. Our only gripe, the squid needed to be cleaned better, we had to pick out cuttlebone from the tail tube multiple times.

The Tamarind Prawns was a little bit sweet, a little bit piquant, and a lot yummy. We'd have preferred bigger prawns though, these were too slight to make peeling the shells off a worthwhile endeavour...it took forever to peel them all off.

A signature, the Poached Fish, in a tamarind-tomato broth laced with bamboo shoots and spring onions, was delicate and scrumptious. The fish, a cross between the smooth creaminess of a pomfret, and the thick meatiness of a seabass, was clear in flavour, so it soaked up the flavours of the broth beautifully.

Served as a complimentary starter like bread, the black sesame-d Grilled Rice Paper was like really plain Japanese rice crackers, crunchy and needed the flavours of the other dishes to pop.

The shop front for reference. Best make reservations if wanting to dine on a weekend. We were there pretty late, and the restaurant was packed to the rafters the whole time we were there.

Nam Béo - Quán Nhậu Hải Sản
Lô 18 - 20 Võ Văn Kiệt, Quận Sơn Trà, Đà Nẵng
Tel: 0905 585 615
Open daily from 7am to 10.30pm


Danang Street Food

Da Nang street food is notably different from Hanoi's street food, and has its own distinct identity. It's right in the middle of Vietnam, and next to the sea, so its cuisine draws influence from the Imperial cuisine of nearby Hue, the sea-moderated tropical climate, and its history of being the R&R of many an American GI. Think lots of seafood, and Vietnamese-styled American fare like pizza.

Unlike Hanoi which has the Old Quarter (where you find a concentration of the most amazing street food), street food in Danang is comparatively spread out. It's practically hiking if you plan to get from one street food stall to the next, so your best bet is to get with a food tour. We did 3 different food tours in 2 days, and would recommend our favourite, Danang Foodie, for all your food tour needs.

Book a private one on a motorbike. You ride pillion and experience first-hand the life of a typical resident. Many of their guides are local university students, and give an honest insight to the real Da Nang. We were brought around by 2 of the bubbliest and sweetest kids, and we chatted like old chums and laughed up a storm, all the while stuffing our faces. It was akin to having local friends bring you around their hometown to eat. Now, that's what I call an authentic experience. 

Quang Noodles (My Quang)

Quang noodles, or Mi Quang, are a big big thing in Da Nang, and frequently eaten for lunch. Because Da Nang has got a tropical climate, their noodles are seldom soupy. Quang noodles are lightly slicked in a brown meat broth seasoned with fish sauce, rich in flavour so a little goes a long way.

Toppings run the gamut from seafood like shrimp and fish, to meat like grilled pork ribs and the exotic like jellyfish, eel, and frogs' legs. The Hubs had the Quang Noodles with Beef (VND25,000) which was full-bodied but a lot chewy.

The Mi Quang with Chicken (VND25,000), marinated in tumeric for added aroma, was better. The rice flour noodles, unevenly cut, was like a cross between the handmade texture of Chinese la mian, and the clear neutral flavour of a thicker kway teow.

As with any Vietnamese eatery, a heaping plate of vegetables ride-along every dish. Here, banana blossoms, lettuce and baby mustard leaves, together with chilli pepper-oil emulsion, and fresh green chillis, add oomph.

The restaurant.

My Quang & Bánh Tráng Thịt Heo Đại Lộc
19 Trần Bình Trọng, Hải Châu 2, Hải Châu
Đà Nẵng, Vietnam
Tel: 09850 00 075
Open daily from 6am to 10pm

Vietnamese Pizza (Banh Trang Nuong)

Vietnamese pizza is a lot more delicate than the western concept of pizza. Resembling a thin pancake, a thin, dry rice paper is used as a base to stuff various meat, usually minced, and oodles of fried onions, before being toasted over an open fire, instead of being baked in an oven. This, by far, is my favourite Da Nang street food.

The Bahn Trang Cac Loai Kho Pate (VND12,000) was a rolled pizza (can we even call this a Vietnamese calzone?) lined with pate and lashings of fried shallots. So so good.

This heart-stoppingly delicious open pizza was topped with beaten quails' eggs and golden shallots (VND$12,000).

To cut through the grease and richness of the pizzas, the Fresh Green Mango sprinkled with bits of fried shredded beef jerky and fish sauce, Xoai Ruoc (VND20,000), was a piquant, tangy refresher.

The intrepid little cafe.

I love how most eateries have a little tv in their dining halls. Also note the typical dwarfed seating, with the smallest stools for sitting.

Quan Bánh Tráng Kẹp Dì Hoa
62/2A Núi Thành, Quận Hải Châu,
Đà Nẵng, Vietnam

Vietnamese Pancake (Bánh xèo)

When I first saw Banh Xeo (VND36,000), I thought it was 2 separate dishes, one skewered grilled meat like satay and the other, an eggy omelette pancake. Turns out, both are merely components of one full dish. Its transliteration is "sizzling cake".

The crepe-like tumeric-yellow rice pancake was crisped over hot coals in a skillet, and stuffed with beansprouts, fatty pork belly slivers, spring onions and fried baby shrimp.

These skewers were pork based, hand-chopped and laced with herbs and spices. Like the yellow pancake, eat them on their own or make like a Vietnamese:- swaddle them, with as much fresh vegetables, raw garlic, fresh chilli of the red or green variety, cut soursop, julienned carrots, and additional beansprouts, into a rice paper roll. Dip it all into a pork liver-pate-peanut sauce, and voila, you're Vietnamese.

I found that beef wasn't done very well in Central Vietnam, as it tends towards the gamey. Pork and shrimp are more abundant in Da Nang so best stick to those proteins when ordering food. The Sesame Lemongrass Beef with Betel (VND70,000), or bò nướng lá lốt, was nicely seasoned, but the numb bite of the betel leaves couldn't mask how gamey it was.

The restaurant is accessible through a tiny alley and this small opening. Like I always say about Vietnam, you really have to be skinny to get around coz all their walkways and eateries are so cramped.

Bánh Xèo Miền Trung
280/14 Hoàng Diệu, Quận Hải Châu, Đà Nẵng, Vietnam
Tel: +84 511 3871 446 / 0918 020 010
Open daily from 4pm to 10pm

Banh Xeo

I think I preferred the Bahn Xeo at this stall, mostly because their liver-pate-peanut sauce was more balanced, displaying a little more restrain with the chicken liver flavour. Oh one note about the herbs in Danang, there's one they call "fishy leaf" that's a cross between garland chrysanthemum and coriander leaves. Avoid it at all costs if you're anything like me and hate those greens.

The skewers (VND5,000) here were smokier, and I think it slightly edged the one at the other stall out.

The shrimp on the pancakes (VND6,000) were fatter, but the pancake was thicker, and eggier.

Cooking over the hot coals in old metal drums.

The eatery facade for reference.

Hà Điệp - Bánh Xèo & Nem Lụi
302 Phạm Cự Lượng, Quận Sơn Trà, Đà Nẵng
Open daily from 4pm to 10pm

Bánh Mì Que

This is the little sister to banh mi, the Banh My Que (VND12,000):- a miniature baguette buttered with sweet Thai-style chilli sauce, pork floss, julienned carrots and pate, and then toasted to bring it all together.

I loved it. It's a brilliant street snack, easy to eat while walking around, a riot of the crisp and refreshing and sweet and savoury flavours.

The shop front for reference.

Banh My Que / Banh Mi Que
Dat hang xin goi
ngon mieng - ve sinh
Tel: +0167 737 54 58 / 0934 770 362
Open daily from 2pm to 8pm

Bánh Mì

And no visit to Vietnam is complete without a taste of their classic Banh My. This French-inspired sandwich may not have originated in Da Nang, but hawkers serving this tasty snack are everywhere, and it's widely beloved. Here in this stall, they make their own baguette, and the smell of freshly baked bread was intoxicating af. (VND7,000)

My version was, of course, sans cilantro, but I asked for extra portions of their pork sausage and pork belly, the latter made in-house, and liberally schmered with pate. So so so good!!

The shop front for reference.

Bà Lan - Bánh Mì Thịt Chả
62 Trưng Nữ Vương, Quận Hải Châu, Đà Nẵng, Vietnam
Open daily from 9am to 11pm; 4pm to 9pm
Tel: 0935 646 286

Gỏi cá lạc

Goi Ca Lac (VND70,000) was another unique dish we discovered in Danang. It's like ceviche, with raw fish cured in ginger, chilli, corn, and then finished with a flurry of crushed peanuts.

The raw fish salad took a little getting used to. It was pungent and robust in flavour and aroma. That was made even more pronounced by the sauce, chicken liver blended with fish water and sesame seeds.I could see why the locals love it, but I didn't quite like it.

We needed A LOT of fresh mint, perilla and lettuce to get through the rice paper roll.

The dining hall was airy and windy.

It's annexed to the living quarters of the restaurant owners.

Gỏi Cá Bà Mỳ
11 Mai Lão Bạng, P. Thuận Phước, Quận Hải Châu, Đà Nẵng
Tel: 0511 3894 576
Open daily from 3pm to 11pm

This reminded us of SG's chut chut, but fried with lemongrass and chilli. It was a pain to pick the meat out, but that was pretty gratifying when we got them all out. Liked the seasoning, but strictly as a matter of preference, not so keen on the shellfish.

The shop for reference. 


Grilled Chicken Wings

Okay, now I know we actually have this in SG, Grilled Chicken wings (VND5,000), similar in taste to what we can find in Chomp Chomp or Bedok Fengshan 85, but Vietnamese-style with the addition of Thai basil, fresh cucumbers and a plum salted soy-green chilli dip.

Also, we had their local beer, Larue (VND10,000), which also looked a lot like our Tiger Beer. Notwithstanding the similarity, the beer was pretty awesome, light, refreshing and thirst-quenching.

The chefs barbecuing meats over charcoal.

The shop front, where you see a steady stream of customers waiting to take away their satays and chicken wings.

Hai Còi - Chân Gà Nướng
Lô 2 Nguyễn Văn Thoại (Đối diện 35 Nguyễn Văn Thoại), Quận Ngũ Hành Sơn, Đà Nẵng
Open daily from 3pm to 10.30pm

Da Nang
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