Cities with good cuisine along Mekong River
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
After sightseeing, I visited Pasteur Street Brewing Company, the country’s first microbrewery and an eye-opening example of how trendy southern Vietnam has become. The iconic Hotel Caravelle is great to migrate to for happy hour. Sip stiff drinks as the foreign correspondents did 50 years ago and take in dramatic views that showcase the rapid transformation of the city.
For dinner, The Racha Room is a carnivore’s delight, with fresh lamb and beef flown in from Australia and New Zealand. For more traditional Vietnamese, the legendary Cha Ca La Vong serves a single, eponymous dish: delicately fried white fish and noodles with lots of dill and turmeric. I saved my street food binge for a late-night snack at Mai Xuan Canh in District 1. It is raucous and conveniently located and features eight different types of chicken pho alone.
Sa Dec, Vietnam
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
For the evening meal, Romdeng is an excellent choice. This eatery is a culinary school set in a colonial villa, run by Friends International, an non-governmental organization that trains disadvantaged youth.
For after-dinner drinks, Le Moon offers dizzying views of bustling streets while Elephant Bar in Raffles Hotel Le Royal provides an old-school, elegant ambiance. Case in point: The signature Femme Fatale cocktail is named after Jackie Kennedy’s visit in 1967.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Set in the lush garden of Mie Cafe, I feasted on crab chowder with fresh Mekong crabmeat in a creamy coconut and pea emulsion, curried beef with pumpkin and scallop seaweed salad with palm fruit. For special occasions, Cuisine Wat Damnak is the premier spot, with an award-winning tasting menu that changes every two weeks. After such rich food, Miss Wong Cocktail Bar on The Lane is an ideal spot to enjoy a quiet cocktail while people-watching on the nearby and chaotic Pub Street.
After lunch, I recommend searching for hidden gem Cafe Pho Co, located at 11 Hang Gai. Enter through the Silklike shop, walk through the secret courtyard and climb the steep stairs to the rooftop cafe with unobstructed views of Hoan Kiem Lake. The coffee with egg whites is so creamy that it’s practically a meal.
Finally, no trip to Hanoi is complete without a visit to the five-star Metropole Hotel, where novelist Graham Greene wrote “The Quiet American” in 1951. As I sipped his signature cocktail in the colonial-era Bamboo Bar, I reflected on this delicious, vibrant corner of the world and vowed to return soon.
Hope you enjoy your stay in Asia!
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