We decided to check out Com Nieu since Anthony Bourdain waxed lyrical about it in season 1 of A Cook's Tour. You can watch the video here. The restaurant has since undergone a drastic renovation, sporting a classy and modern interior, though the lively and homely atmosphere is now lost. Despite looking rather posh, the prices at Com Nieu are very reasonable for a restaurant.
The soup was tasty, flavourful, starchy and very chinese. It's a small bowl (appetizer size), but they're pretty generous with the ingredients.
The lemon grass flavour was really great here, but the pond snails had a rather crunchy and chewy texture that takes some time to get used to. I still thought this was a pretty interesting dish that went well with rice, but if you're not that into crunchy and chewy snails, I'm pretty sure any other lemon grass dish would taste as great.
As a Singaporean whose family does a pan fried catfish for dinner almost every week, this really wasn't anything new for me. I'm not a big fan of catfish, but the liberal use of lard and caramelized soy sauce does elevate the dish somewhat.
Before I came to Vietnam, I always thought that Vietnamese cuisine was meant to be healthy and bland. What a terrible misconception! This dish is proof that Vietnamese cuisine can have some pretty strong flavours. This dish is a little heavy on salt, but great with rice. The pork and egg are beautifully braised, though I really couldn't detect any coconut.
This is Com Nieu's namesake dish - the dish that involves the waiter cracking the pot encasing the rice in front of you and subsequently tossing the rice across the room a few times (to make sure it's completely clay-free) before serving it with a sauce of soy, sesame and scallions. It's meant to be crispy on the outside, while still soft and fluffy on the inside. In our case though, the rice was really tough, entirely unlike what it was supposed to be. It was probably overcooked - we left most of it untouched. In the end, the dishes are decent, but very similar to what I can find back home. I'll probably order stranger dishes next time, if I ever return.
6C Tu Xuong, District 3
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
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