Asian fusion cuisine with a splash of drama
There’s a flair of the dramatic and creativity that’s on full display as soon as you walk into the newly opened NU Bistro (2nd floor, 25 Ho Tung Mau, D1). Situated just off Ham Nghi and up a small staircase, the main doors open to a colorful setting of old French architecture and decorative art inspired by Chinoiserie culture that foreshadows the unique fusion dishes found on their innovative menu.
Large mint green columns, exposed white brick walls, and a sprawling mural of a woman with peacock feathers flowing in her hair define the inviting space, with modern furnishing that’s both stylish and comfortable. Open seven days a week from 10am to midnight, NU has a refined atmosphere that’s equally appropriate for anything from a casual Sunday brunch to elegant afternoon tea. On this particular occasion, however, we’re visiting to explore their enticing dinner fare. The staff are friendly and attentive, the dimmed lights create a cozy, evening atmosphere, and the full bar beckons as we settle into our table.
Starting with a round of drinks, we navigate their extensive list of classic cocktails before landing on the signature C’est La Vie (VND170,000), a thoughtfully prepared cocktail of cachaça, red grapes, lime and sugar, as well as a pot of their lychee and grape iced tea (VND130,000), both of which arrive in remarkable fashion. The C’est La Vie comes ensconced in a glass dome that traps dry ice spewing smoke from out of the coaster and holds a beverage that pleasantly walks the line between sweet, bitter and a spirited bite. The tea, too, is presented with dry ice emanating from the pot, which holds a fresh and fruity concoction that furthers the restaurant’s knack for dramatic presentation.
Before long, our appetizers arrive and we embark on a culinary fusion of East and West with a cauliflower coconut soup (VND80,000) that’s garnished with a flaky homemade pastry holding bits of bacon. The thick, pureed broth is creamy, yet still light and delicately flavored with a touch of onion.
Next was a frisée aux lardons salad with bacon (VND130,000) of ample portion. A deep fried filo egg at the center provided a tasty crunch, while the yoke was still runny enough to mix in with the thick-cut, crispy bacon and assortment of veggies that included cherry tomatoes, radishes, and carrots.
Polishing off our starters, we transitioned into the main course with a magnificent pan seared duck breast with Huyet long black rice (VND220,000). Lightly seasoned, the succulent duck comes paired with a tart Vietnamese mulberry sauce that rounds out the flavorful dish, complemented with baby carrots and healthy lotus seed pods mixed into the rice.
At the manager’s recommendation, we couldn’t pass up on the tagliatelle with amatriciana sauce (VND170,000), a house favorite that did not disappoint. Served perfectly al dente, the fresh pasta was mixed into the rich, red sauce with large chunks of spicy Vietnamese sausage, giving a delicious local twist to the classic Italian dish.
By this point, we were comfortably full, but after eating our way through the flavorful surprises and creative takes of each course, we felt passing up on dessert would be woefully regrettable. And so, we found ourselves plunging into a decadently layered tiramisu (VND120,000) that, naturally, is presented in its own unique way. Served in a small clay pot with a chocolate crumble on top and Bailey’s sauce inside, the dessert arrived with a small saucer of sweet cream to pour over and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, providing just the right way to end our evening at NU Bistro.
Images Provided by Ngoc Tran and NU