Saturday, April 21, 2012

Highway 4 Restaurant: A Critical Approach

Continuing the trend in Saigon of sleek modern spaces offering up traditional Vietnamese delights at competitive rates is Highway 4.  Part of a veritable empire of eateries that has apparently clogged the market in Hanoi, we were told to visit by a friend.  We are instinctively wary of establishments like these, usually best suited for post-work drinks and eats with the business crowd, and, unfortunately, our reticence once again proved to be well-founded.

It had a nice, well-printed menu with tapas offerings that only lunatics or insurance agents would ingest, such as crickets and locusts.  Levity aside, there is something for everyone on said list. Extensive and nice fonts!

We were instructed to get the fried catfish spring rolls, which is supposedly the restaurant's crown jewel.  They were tasty and the use of dill was interesting, but the fish had clearly been fried at some indistinct moment in the past and warmed up via microwave.  In a land where microwaves are rare, it was all-too-easy to recognize the chewy texture as evidence of nukeage.

They also followed an abhorrent Saigonese trend by providing crappy, plastic-bottle hoisin and chili sauce.  If you are going to make an attempt at specialized dining, please provide sauces that are palatable; store-bought gelatinous sludge is never cool.

Yeah, we couldn't help ourselves...

Sweet potato fries
Thank goodness for old stand-bys! The mi xao rau proved to be our favorite item as it was basic, tasty, and fresh.

In our perpetual hunt for new, tasty vegetarian finds we stumbled across the tofu patties.  Sadly, they were arid, insipid lumps of vegetable protein that were best left undigested.  They could have been saved by a decent sauce, but instead were inexplicably paired with soy sauce.  The acidity of the soy left these chalk balls even less appetizing, giving them a bitter kick.  

Tofu Patties

In a city with endless amounts of delicious food, save yourself from a shining facade and go dingy.  On the bright side, at least it's not fusion...

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