HO CHI MINH CITY - Located on Mac Thi Buoi Street in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, Chilli Thai has quickly become the choice of locals and tourists since its opening. And for very good reasons: good location, tasty food, affordable prices and unique deco
In addition to authentic Thai favourites like tom yum, prawn salad with sweet chilli paste and lemongrass, and deep-fried catfish with mango salad, the restaurant offers some fusion items that will surely whet your appetite.
As soon as I stepped through the door, I was impressed with the sophisticated design, with a background colour of dark brown and black. The vintage style of the restaurant was reflected in the wood and iron decor, from the table and chairs to the stair handrails and sturdy doors.
Completing the Thai atmosphere were mirrors with classic frames and paintings on grey walls, wooden and stone Buddhas, handcrafted wooden elephants, handicrafts on wall shelves, and even large plants.
The a la carte menu features a range of Thai dishes, from traditional street food to modern fusion, and Thai drinks and teas, and other items with both Thai and Vietnamese flavours.
A total of 80 items are on offer, from appetizers, starters, soups to main courses, curries, noodles and hot pots, included sour, spicy, sweet and salty flavours, with influences from surrounding countries including India, China and Malaysia.
“However, half of these flavours are prepared to suit the locals’ palate and tastes,” said Truong Nu Huong Duyen, the restaurant’s marketing manager.
“We have made some changes in our recipes such as reducing hot spices or blending Thai traditions and Vietnamese flavours. So it’s not surprising to see a whole family including adults and children and others eating here.”
As fans of the sweet-sour Thai salad, my sister and I decided to warm up our taste buds with two flavourful appetisers – deep fried, fluffy and crispy catfish with mango and stir-fried shrimp with satay.
The succulent shrimp had garnishes of red cabbage, fried red onions and mint leaves, while the fish was finely matched with a sweet and sour fish sauce, mango, fried red onions and herbs.
The sour mango paired with a sweet-sour sauce helped balance the richness of the deep-fried crispy fish.“No one should miss this salad when they visit. It is our stand-out dish,” said Huong Duyen.
We also shared a small bowl of tofu and minced pork soup with coconut milk and red chilli; and a hot & sour chicken/prawn soup, which combined mushrooms, tomato, ginger, lemongrass and cilantro at the same price of 80,000 dong (US$3.60) per portion.
It was a harmonious combination, with smooth tofu as well as minced pork, fatty and aromatic coconut milk paired with a red chilli, lime leaf and lemongrass.
The two richly flavoured soups were not too hot or spicy, and would be good for children to try.
I preferred the soup with coconut milk as I was born and grew up in the south where coconut is an important addition to many kinds of foods and sweets.
Huong said that more than 10 new choices had been added to the menu and more would be created next month.
Among the new choices include stir-fried rice noodle with pork; pork BBQ Thai style with sweet & sour sauce, and prawn salad with spicy papaya and salted lime sauce.
We also tried fried rice, an adaptation of Thai fried rice which combines green chilli, red onions, bacon and salted eggs, and a pork skewer, a traditional Thai street food.
Both were so tasty that I was eager to finish the entire pork skewer and fried rice.
However, I had to save room for a traditional Thai sweet as recommended.
I enjoyed the typical Thai durian ice cream with water chestnut tapioca pearls and coconut, while my sister was taken with the coconut ice cream served in a whole coconut.
It was memorable to experience dining in a luxurious but cosy atmosphere in the city’s heart at an inviting price. We then left for shopping, knowing we would return for a second round.
Chilli Thai RestaurantAddress: 38 Mac Thi Buoi Street, District 1, HCM CityPhone: 08 3823-7727www.chillithai.com.vnwww.facebook.com/chillithaivnOpening hours: 10am-10pmComment: good location, fantastic food, inviting prices, impressive decor and cosy ambiance