Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 26: Chau Doc - evening

Following from the earlier post I made my way back to the floating hotel and had a couple of beers in the bar. Part of the complex had a restaurant and I could also eat where I was. I was comfortable, had a good view and by my third beer decided that eating where I was was a nice lazy option. I asked for the food menu and decided on what I wanted to eat. I waited for the waitress to come back and take my order. I waited, I could see her sitting doing nothing as I was the only customer at this stage. I waited. I finished my beer. I got up and paid my bill and walked out.
I was a little peeved at the lack of service. Probably I don't understand the Vietnam service ethics, definately I had been spoilt by the very attentive service in Cambodia, where the waitress would hover until you ordered. But I was peeved and decided to talk with my feet. The waitress gave me a bored look as I left. My message was obviously wasted.
That actually meant that I needed to hit the streets again to find food as I didn't want to give my business to the restaurant as it was part of the same complex. I decided on a cheap bowl of noodles from a local restaurant or even a street vendor. My path led me past the "Victoria Hotel" my guide book describes this as "seriously stylish" and possessing the best restaurant in town. It certainly looked grand and dressed in shorts and shirt I considered myself under dressed to be there. But after a small internal debate over, dress standards, food quality, cost, environment I decided to check the menu. It was expensive by local standards but not western standards.
I entered the bar area, a large open space with solid varnished wooden bar stools, tables and chairs plus a health amount of comfy chairs and couches for relaxing. The restaurant was behind a door to my right and as I approached the door opened for me. I was greeted by a Maitre,d in a impressive white jacket with brocade on the chest and sleeves. 'Table for 1 please"
At first sight the restaurant was opulent. Hand carved wooden tables and chairs, lots of dark wood panelling, views over the river, pot plants, mood lighting an an atmosphere of calm and quiet. Done in an old Colonial fashion, where money had been no object, this reminded me of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, as the movies depict it not the present.
I was served by a tall slim waitress. Not a classic beauty, but her uniform which consisted of a white flowing tunic over white ankle length pull up pants and I presume a blouse of some description gave her a look of elegance and refinement. She smiled, understood my order and by the end of the dinner I had realised that she watched me like a hawk and was always present when my plate needed taking away or my glass filled. If not present a simple glance in her direction would have her over in a flash. That is what I call service
I could see about 7 waitresses all dressed the same, all looking slim, tall and glamorous, and I was the only customer. Maybe this is what heaven is all about, maybe I should repent my wicked evil ways. The restaurant could have seated about 60 diners plus more on a balcony.
I ordered a glass of White wine, South African, pleasant, but nothing to write home about. (Except I just have!). I then turned my attention to the Menu, it was written in Vietnames, French and English with an adequate dish name describing the item. I ordered "traditional steamed Vietnamese rice paper rolls" and "squid prepared in Kampot Pepper and chilli sauce".
Before my meal I was brought an "amusee bouche" this consisted of a pork parcel on a slice of cucumber. It was delicious. It had a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce around the plate. Without thinking I smeared the cucumber with chilli and burnt my mouth. Damn that was hot!
Next came the steamed rice paper roll. In Australia I have seen deep fried and fresh, never steamed, so this was a novelty. I was presented with a plate consisting of 3 rolls with a small amount of salading and a slice of yellow stuff between the rolls. I think it may be bean curd, as I have seen similar presented on or with Sushi. There was a spicy dipping sauce also.
The rolls were lovely, freshly prepared, with just the right amount of stickiness in the rice paper so that the roll stayed together when bitten, but didn't stick to plates or fingers. That feeling of being in heaven was still upon me.
About this time I noticed that the tunics worn by the waitresses were a lovely citrus lemon in colour. I could have sworn that they were white when I walked in. I doubted my initial observations but then reasoned that they were white and that they had now changed their tunics. I asked later to confirm this and they had indeed changed. For me that level of attention to detail is rare, a novelty. Maybe I should eat 5* more often.
By the time the Squid main meal arrived I was not really hungry. The entrée was a generous size and would have been sufficient. I managed to force it down however, the sacrifices that I make for others. The squid was properly prepared and tender. The pepper sauce was delicate and looked more like a thin gravy around the food. The chilli sauce was served seperately. The pepper sauce was my dissapointment. A food critic may have said that the sauce was delicate so as not to overpower the squid, I was expecting something a bit more peppery and needed to use the chilli to bring out the flavours, even then a good dose of pepper would have improved it in my view. That is a slight criticism of an overall excellent dining experience, I cannot fault the preperation, presentation or service. It was overall a surreal dining experience.
If ever you go to Chau Doc do yourself a favour and have at least one meal at the Victoria Hotel.
The bludger is not sure if heaven can improve on this.
Nick Smith
Sent from my Acer Iconia A500 Tab

No comments:

Post a Comment