After spending all morning touring the royal tombs in the countryside surrounding Hue, we return back to town overheated, dehydrated and ready for a late lunch. We ask at the front desk at our hotel for a recommendation. They give us a card for a place called La Carambole and we walk over there. What we discover is the backpacker street of Hue, and a restaurant with a multi-page, multi-lingual, multi-cuisine menu. Alarm bells go off in my head, but we’re hungry and sit down anyway. I ask for the local specialty, beef noodle soup, Bun Bo Hue. We are told they are out. We peruse the menu for a few more moments, debating the cheese sandwiches, hamburgers and spaghetti, look at each other, and get up and walk out of the restaurant.
Now I’m starving and we are perilously close to breaking Golden Rule #1. We start walking, looking at menus on tourist street and just nothing appeals. We’re walking in circles and end up a few blocks from our hotel.
I say, “I don’t care where we eat. I’m just hungry. I’m ready for anything. I could even eat Italian food (meaning, breaking with the goal of eating mostly Vietnamese), but we need to find a place owned by Italians.”
In all of our travels around the world, we have found Italian expats who have opened restaurants and most of them have been fairly authentic and good. I guess Italian food is a cuisine which can be easily duplicated with most local ingredients. The same does not hold true for Mexican food, I’m sorry to say.
Within 5 minutes, there it was, an Italian place called Mediterraneo d’ Hue. We look at the menu and keep walking because I’m determined to have my Bun Bo Hue.
We find it at a place called Restaurant Co Do, at 22 Ben Nghe and it’s basic noodle soup but good. 56,000 VND for two bowls of soup and 2 Huda beers.
After lunch, David wants ice cream and I remember Mediterraneo has a sign saying “home made ice cream”. We go there and end up meeting the owner who just happens to be there this week, sitting on the patio, working on his laptop (they have free wifi there too, I think). Usually, he is in Hanoi, at his other restaurant of the same name, located near the Cathedral. We have ice cream, David has his favorite Italian digestive (amaro), we chat with the owner for a long while, and decide to come back for dinner.
Once it is dark, we walk a couple of blocks over for dinner atMediterraneo d’ Hue(#7 Ben Nghe St). They have two crucial ingredients for good Italian food; a wood fired oven and freshly made pasta. We order a Pizza Capricciosa and and a Linguine al Pesto. Both are very good, and yes, authentic. As much as I love eating local food where ever we travel, I find that after about 5 or 6 days I need a break. This place perfectly fit the bill.
With a liter bottle of Pellegrino, a Campari Orange and another amaro for David, the dinner is by far our most expensive yet at 395,000 VND (approx. $22.50 with the drinks about half of the total).
For more on this day, including photos of the Royal Tombs we visited, please see my travelogue at http://www.wired2theworld.com/vietnam2009Day5Hue.html