|Oriental: Cơm chiên nghệ sen (Stir-fried rice with saffron and lotus seeds). — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng|
Before Tết (Lunar New Year), my friend and I were unable to enjoy a year-end lunch at Sadhu Vegetarian Restaurant because I didn’t reserve a table for us. I just assumed we could stroll in and there’d be space for us, but I was wrong. The restaurant, which opened three months ago, was filled to the gunnels.
Having learnt my lesson, I decided to try again after the new year holiday, and phoned them at 9.30am to reserve a table for lunch. However, once again, I was told that the venue was fully booked… until 1pm. After a slight hesitation, I agreed to have lunch at 1pm – quite late for my 12 noon routine. When we arrived we still had to wait 15-20 minutes until they could find a table for us.
Our table was set up in the centre of the restaurant, right in front of a large rattan installation of a Buddhist monk hanging over a faux copper bell, the pure fragrance from pomelo flowers on every table enhanced the peaceful ambience of the venue.
I was curious about the meaning of the restaurant’s name, and a waitress explained that the word ‘Sadhu’ in Pali [a Middle Indo-Aryan language native to the Indian subcontinent] means “Excellent”, “Very good”, or “Well done
The restaurant offers an all-you-can eat buffet for VNĐ228,000 and then you can choose as many dishes on the menu as you like.
While learning the menu, which is in the style of a picture book featuring a wide range of dishes (80), we developed eyes bigger than our stomachs, thinking that we could try at least half of them. In fact, we had about 10 dishes, including dessert.
|Creamy: The asparagus soup. – Photo courtesy of Sadhu|
|Classic twist: Phở xào Sadhu – Sadhu’s stir-fried phở noodles. — Photo courtesy of Sadhu|
|On high: A rattan installation of a Buddhist monk set high in the centre of the restaurant. — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng|
|Flavourful: Bánh Thiền Lâm is a small, clear-looking, chewy tapioca dumpling. — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng|
We started our lunch with Súp đọt măng non – a creamy asparagus soup. As someone who takes attention to detail, I noticed the light green colour of the soup was ‘ton sur ton’ with the dark green ceramic bowl and accompanying dish. I’m sure this was not by chance.
The Bánh Thiền Lâm was a small, clear-looking, chewy tapioca dumpling with a green bean and fragrant minced mushroom stuffing. The bite-sized cakes were very fresh and full of the aroma of mushrooms.
While Bánh Thiền Lâm was the vegetarian version of “bột lọc” cake, the Bánh Huyền Không was the meat-free version of “bánh xèo” or sizzling crepe. My appetite was spoiled by this crisp savoury treat.
The Gỏi sắn nước was an assorted salad with yam beans, snow mushrooms and gingko nuts. The natural light sweetness and juicy texture of the tuber had been combined perfectly with the other ingredients, especially the gingko nuts which had a bittersweet flavour and punchy-soft texture.
Next, my taste buds were treated nicely by Phở xào Sadhu – Sadhu’s stir-fried phở noodles. While the popular version of phở xào uses fresh noodles, Sadhu’s creation is a plate of “cocoons” on a bed of assorted vegetables including bean sprouts, bok choy, onion, celery and ear mushrooms. The cocoons were made from phở threads, rolled and fried.
We were also impressed with Bắp cải cuộn lá nếp (Cabbage with pandan leave) – a kind of soup with small cabbage dumplings. A thin string of pandan leave was used to wrap the dumplings, aiming to add distinct, floral-like notes to the soups.
We aslo tasted Đậu hũ sốt chà là Ấn Độ (Fried tofu with Indian date palm sauce), Cà tím chiên mật nhãn (Fried eggplant with palm sugar sauce), Canh thiền tuyết nhĩ (Zen soup with snow mushroom), mushroom congee, and Cơm chiên nghệ sen (Stir-fried rice with saffron and lotus seeds) – each was a small portion and had it’s own delicate combination of flavours.
Honestly, we are not vegetarians but we enjoyed every dish that was brought to our table. I want to return soon to try other dishes that we couldn’t sample during our first experience at Sadhu. — VNS
Sadhu Vegetarian Restaurant
Address: 87 Lý Thường Kiệt St, Hoàn Kiếm Dist, Hà Nội
Opening hours: 10:30am – 10pm, Mon-Sun
Comment: Tasteful ambience, a varied and large menu, fresh and delicious food, reasonable for an all you eat.
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