I mostly root for home cooks but every once in a while, you want someone else to do the cooking, serving and cleaning. Today I learned about several spots that would get me out the door and on a plane:
Restaurant Mẹ - "Mom's Restaurant" is a moderately priced Vietnamese-New Orleans-Spanish restaurant in Barcelona, Spain. The chef/co-owner is Vietnamese American who used to live in New Orleans. The other owner is American. Now they're both in Barcelona, which is like Los Angeles -- open to new ideas and adventure. It's located in the L'Eixample area at Carrer de Paris, 162, Barcelona, 8036. (New York Times review || Chow.com posting)
Hai Nam Restaurant - It's not all you can eat but rather all you can eat AND all you can pay. The restaurant specializes in Hainan chicken and rice (a specialty from Hainan island in the South China Seas that's historically been contested property between China and Vietnam). You get a ton of food but only pay for what you eat. This approach to dining is called ăn nhiều tính nhiều, which literally means "eat much, pay much." Leftovers are passed on to another table. Maybe not so hygienic but certainly efficient for the kitchen staff. Hai Nam Restaurant is located in Phan Rang, a coastal town located about 50 miles south of Nha Trang.
Cuốn - The name means "roll" and it's a smallish place in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) devoted to rice rolls. My friend Daniel came across Cuốn in May when he was last in the Motherland. He says it's a smart local venture, not something that an overseas Viet Kieu introduced. Anyone aside from Daniel been there?
Bún- Is another monosyllabic restaurant in Saigon next to Quán Ăn Ngon on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street near the Reunification Palace. They specialize in Viet dishes featuring thin, round rice noodles called what else but bún. It's a lovely building and a nice alternative to the popular Ngon down the way. Ironically, last week chef/restaurateur Michael Bao Huynh opened a restaurant called Bún in New York City. Maybe soon someone will open a Cuốn place too! It's a two way street, from abroad back to Vietnam and vice versa.