Thursday, 12 June 2014

Mâu Dich 37, or Sharing Lunch with a Rat

South East Asia, mostly a land of culinary dreams, can turn out to be a land of culinary nightmares from time to time. This post, the first of a fair few from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, comes from towards the end of our stay, where a supposedly fun lunch went a bit awry. Happily it's all up hill from here!

Before we landed in Hanoi, we'd done our research, checking out some other food bloggers and guide books to find out some cool places to eat. One promising place was Mâu Dich 37. The place is styled like a government-run canteen from the 1970's. A was particularly intrigued. As an undergraduate student of German, A was all too aware of Germans' "Ostalgie" - a nostalgia for the old East Germany and its products such as Spreewaldgurken and Trabis and A's interest was piqued by the fact that in Vietnam, where the communists actually won, people get nostalgic for the old ways. We had to go.

Rice: it appeared to have spices in it, couldn't taste them

Obviously we don't know what these canteens were actually like, but this was easily the worst meal we ate in Vietnam. We ordered a couple of salads, some meat dishes and the like, all of which was memorable, for all the wrong reasons. In a country where pungent spices such chili, coriander, keffir lime and lemongrass abound in the food, the dishes here was bland. I would write more, but this is the overwhelming memory of the food: flavourless, tepid, overcooked. 

Bland Food
The atmosphere in the place was also dead: we were the only folks in there, which was a good way out of town and away from the action (such as action exists in Hanoi - it's quite a staid place), and while the décor - old radios, propaganda posters and the like - was pretty cool, it didn't make up for the lack of patrons.

This beef was about as manky as the crockery

The mediocre food was crowned by our fellow diner. As mentioned, the restaurant was empty, with one notable exception: a rather large rat, which was clearly fairly used to people and spent most of lunch nibbling on peanut shells under the table next to us.

A plate of, er, gristle?

Our verdict: damning. Don't go anywhere near this place. It's a little bit too authentic for its own good.

Our fellow diner

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