Picturesque river views, ice-cold beers and delicious comfort food this side of District 2

A year ago owner Jeff decided to take BoatHouse (40 Lily Road, APSC, 36 Thao Dien, D2) on as a personal project, utilizing his 20 some years of experience in the hospitality industry to revamp and turn the restaurant into a haven for comfort food with one of the best views in town. Fast forward to today and the BoatHouse is now considered one of the best spots to take in a river view, beer, and some delicious comfort food this side of District 2.

With a cosmopolitan crowd of expats, teachers, professionals and locals, the place had a vibrant hum to it not in the least matched by the good live music which I’m told they have nearly every day of the week. In addition, it seemed they have chosen wisely in partnering with Pasteur Jasmine IPA (I was told they were one of the first and bestsellers of the beer when it first came out in the market), as well as Meatworks, which provides the restaurant with high quality beef and sausages. A smoker toiled away somewhere out back where Jeff might’ve gotten a bit misty-eyed talking about their homemade rub and the possibility of bringing real BBQ and ribs to the table.

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I settled down under the newly-built canopy, with soft ambient lighting, and just in time with the distant rumblings of a pending thunderstorm matched by the rumblings in my stomach.

To begin the evening I was cajoled into the BoatHouse frozen margarita (VND125,000), which was a heavenly citrus and refreshing blend of Triple Sec, lime juice and sugar. Sweet and sour flavors combined to make the perfect drink for a hot day.

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I was immediately hit with a triple sampler of Jeff ’s bite-sized tacos. Crispy shredded chicken tacos (VND125,000) on a soft tortilla covered in lettuce, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and chipotle salsa.

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The Blackened mahi mahi fish tacos (VND85,000) brought to memory slight waves crashing on Southern California beaches with the crunch of the cabbage slaw, and avocado mango salsa. The homemade chipotle salsa gave it a nice little kick with the tang of the mango adding a nice balance of spicy sweetness.

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The third from the triple sampler was the Beer battered mahi mahi (VND75,000) that came with spicy salsa—I applaud them for offering it as not many places do.

Next came a multi-punch sampler that came in the form of boneless Buffalo Chicken Bites (VND130,000) or deep fried breaded goodness slathered with a choice of honey BBQ, Parmesan or buffalo sauces.

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I was told their Cauliflower Bites (VND115,000) were really popular and with one bite I could tell why. I’m not a fan of cauliflower in general but with the soft, tender, almost creamy texture of this cauliflower version I could easily see why it was a hit. If only all veggies could taste so good.

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One of the more eclectic choices in the appetizer menu was the Crispy duck rolls (VND125,000) where they buy the entire Peking duck and use the meat rolled up with cucumber in a rice paper coupled with hoisin sauce. This was delicious and I was a bit surprised how faithful the taste was to similar things I had in Chinese restaurants in Singapore. The crackle of the Peking duck skin combined with the refreshing cucumber slices has always been a favorite of mine and I highly recommend you try this.

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Keeping with the small bites theme of the night, I had to try one of the many slider choices on the menu. The BBQ pulled pork sliders (VND195,000) brought together the ultimate in American comfort food. The 12-hour smoked pulled pork and the homemade signature BBQ sauce all coalesced in meaty heaven. Not only that but the small touches, like just the right amount of pickle to offset the rich pork flavor, showed me this place is legit to its Southern California core.

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The mac n’ cheese (VND95,000) was buttery but perhaps a bit heavy on the butter side. I would have preferred more cheesiness, however, I was told it was meant to be topped with pulled pork as well, which probably would’ve offset the strong butter flavor.

I finished the night with the baked lava cake (VND135,000) which came soft and warm. My sweet tooth yearned for more caramel and more chocolate sauce. With only three dessert options, I’m hoping that they put a few comfort food dessert items on there as well. A good pecan pie, cheesecake or lemon tart would be my suggestions.

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There’s so many things BoatHouse is doing right. They have ongoing specials like Margarita Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Wing Wednesdays, daily Happy Hour and they can cater to large group events as well as a nice romantic date. Flexibility and a menu that has something for everyone seems to be hardwired into their DNA and from what I’m told there’s even better things to come. Super friendly with an attitude to continually improve and already a hot-spot among locals and expats, BoatHouse just may need to get a bigger boat.

IMAGES BY NGOC TRAN