An exciting new joint on Thong Lor Soi 13 serves Vietnamese comfort food at affordable prices. By Reena Karim
It’s only a Thursday and most of the tables at Zoulviet are already reserved for dinner. Luckily though, the outdoor section is able to seat us. The afternoon heat has made its way out, making this section of the restaurant cool enough to enjoy even without the AC. Massive open windows that wrap around the lounge bring in plenty of evening breeze and give us an overview of the busy street below. I am actually glad we are seated in this part of Zoulviet; the spacious couch in this smoker-friendly area is great to stretch out in and catch up on much needed girl time with my bestie.
Zoulviet was started by a group of friends, who were inspired by Kornkamon Junkaew’s—one of the partners—mother who is from the Da Nang area on Vietnam’s eastern sea coast, between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Since its opening in March this year, Zoulviet, located on the first floor of the bustling J Avenue, right above After You dessert cafe, is successfully carrying forward one of the city’s hottest food trends—Vietnamese cuisine. Its laid-back ambience and affordable prices are just a few reasons why diners keep coming back. Inside, the space stays away from Hoi An lanterns, thankfully, and the usual clichéd south-Asian decor. Instead, what we get is a quirky mix of industrial lamps, brick walls, and brightly coloured wall art and comic strips. A huge propaganda art poster featuring a Vietnamese lady draws your attention and reminds you of the country’s controversial past.
The overall ease and lively ambience of Zoulviet makes it a great spot to lounge in with friends, people spot, and even bring that someone special for a date.
Vietnamese cuisine is faring pretty well in the city with locals and foreigners alike, and a restaurant like Zoulviet, with its authentic fare, keeps the buzz going. The menu here combines classic dishes like beef and pork Pho, with some modern interpretations such as bone rib-eye steak with fried eggs (B460) and pork loaf with pig ears salad (B200). We started with the house special spring rolls (B180) that come with shrimp, steamed pork, lettuce, fresh herbs, and vermicelli, bundled in rice paper and served with a sweet and sour sauce. The fresh, herby roll is light and gets us started on a great note. Next, we dig into mixed Vietnamese vermicelli (B240). The dish is served on a deep plate with small portions of vermicelli noodles, shredded lettuce and eggs, cucumber slices, pork loaf, and two spring rolls. Pile each of the ingredients on your plate, douse it with the sweet sauce and try to get a little bit of everything in your mouth to experience a combination of sweet and spicy flavours and different textures. Even though we were well into dinner, we opted to try a breakfast-perfect dish of eggs frying pan (B140). This meat-laden dish comes with cubes of Chinese sausage, pork floss, Vietnamese pork loaf, and seasoned ground pork over two triangles of toast and fried eggs. It covered just about all of my favourite comfort food and came in the cutest mini frying pan. With just a little more room in our bellies, we also ordered the fried pancake (B240). The crispy crêpe was bursting with dried mushrooms, shrimps, spiced ground pork, and bean sprouts—a portion certainly meant for sharing. The chef here experiments with many dishes and let us sample his latest creation which is deep fried tofu with spicy sauce, a simple offering that was to die for.
The bar, situated at the entrance of the restaurant, serves up a range of soft drinks and fruit punch (B30-100), local beers and Estrella Inedit (B100-650), and sparkling sake jelly drink available in berry and peach flavours (B280) as well as classic Vietnamese drip coffee (B120). Also available are whisky (B2, 200), Prosecco Cascine (B1,300), and a small range of white and red wines (B1, 190-1, 390/bottle). However, we settled for a pitcher of their signature drink Xich Lo (B480). The refreshing, lime-green coloured drink is not too boozy and is a palate cleanser between the dishes. We love the fact that the service staff kept piling our champagne flutes with more of the drink while we chatted away to glory.
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Featured in Masala Lite May 2014