Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Tạm biệt Viet Nam!!
I left Viet Nam yesterday and now I'm in Seoul South Korea. Did the time just sort of fly by towards the end there? I think it did but on the plane I was thinking about my time overall in Viet Nam. I've said earlier in the blog that when I was in Viet Nam that first week my feelings towards the country were 'complicated'. It even become the subject of a seperate piece I wrote for a travel website here. Has that feeling changed now that I've gone? Well over time I've just stopped thinking about that and started to grow up and learn to adjust to being here. Then, adjustment turned to like, then eventually made it all the way to love. Love. Are you shocked? I would be because I sure am.
As I ve said I'm in Seoul now and then I head off to Japan so I'm very excited about this part of my world trip. Yet, I'm kinda bummed about leaving Viet Nam which shocks me. Oh I haven't forgotten how I how I endlessly moaned at the start of the trip – I actually cringe re-reading about wanting to leave earlier but after being there for a month things have really changed. I guess without me realizing it Viet Nam had really rather grown on me. Like a Chia Pet. That feeling sort of snuck up on me – a feeling of adjustment. Letting go of what you THINK should be happening and just letting it happen. Felt good and feels good even now that I'm Korea because I honestly didn't know what to expect when I arrived. So far so good!
I will miss the beautiful Vietnamese countryside. I'll miss having to play the human game of Frogger trying to cross the insane streets of Han Noi and Saigon. I'll miss the frankly bizarre but very friendly and (overly in some cases) inquisitive people. The biggest thing I'll miss? The food. After a very rough start thanks to food poisoning, recovering, avoiding it at all costs then slowly working my way back to it, I love Vietnamese cuisine again and THAT was why I wanted to go there in the first place. To eat!!! So I did and now I'm armed with pictures, recipes and techniques from cooking class and by asking questions to various Chefs and families so I can try to recreate some of those dishes when I get home.
Just to let you know as an update from a previous post, I did go to La Verticale restaurant a couple of nights ago but I didn't bring my camera. Oh and for once I wasn't the only one there dining alone - woohoo!! I loved that, felt like I was back in Paris again!! I have to say though that the one thing I really don't like to do in restaurants, particularly higher end ones, is taking pictures of the food. I know I should for the blog and have done it before for the blog but I really feel uncomfortable doing it. I'd like to think/believe I have a good enough memory to describe that sort of thing and can rely on that memory when I need to. Plus I think it's embarrassing and nosey and please note that when I've done it, it was always with permission. But that's just me and more than likely I'll have to pull out the camera in some other place.
So La Verticale. What can be said about a restaurant that specializes in French - Vietnamese fusion? Well, plenty as it turns out. I love French food and La Verticale didn't disappoint. I was first served an amuse bouche of wonderful tomato gazpacho with caviar and a warm fish soup in separate bowls with a homemade cracker (both soups served in two small bowls). I then had scallops for my app and I've come to the recent conclusion that I really don't like them. La Verticale prepared them very well so it wasn't the restaurant that turned me off of them. The base was made of a mushroom-wasabi broth, a very tasty combination that lended itself beautifully to the scallop but, yeah again, I won't be ordering scallops anymore, anywhere but only for personal reasons which include this: I just seem to have issues with the taste and texture of the scallop no matter what it's with. Oh well my loss right? Anyway before the Main arrived I had grapefruit sorbet to cleanse the pallet, and then it came. A beautiful,medium-rare piece of Australian Beef with Fois Gras (!). Oh I was loving that combo. It has been so long since I have had fois gras or even beef and this dish was just the reminder of why I love the taste and flavour of both, especially together. The fois gras and the medum rare meat were both mouthwatering, melt in your mouth perfection. The accompanying potato side – I believe it was au gratin but might have been dauphinoise (this is where pictures may have come in handy - he says after the fact but I blame the pre dinner martini(s) for muddling my head/memory!) was a big hit too. A French Merlot was served with the beef which was a very nice match (recommended by the waiter - I always ask although now, over a LONG time, I think I have a pretty good idea on what wines would go best with what dish).
So out of all these dishes, none sound particularly Vietnamese do they. Well, yeah, they don't. I think where the Vietnamese influence comes for these particular dishes described above was in the sauces. ALL of the sauces had the distinctive flavourings of fish sauce. It was in everything. I personally wouldn't call that fusion simply by chucking in fish sauce into the dish and voila you've got fusion, but maybe Chef does? No way, however, am I going to argue with the technique of Master Chef Didier Corlou though. I mean who the hell am I to question him? I guess where the real fusion occurs is with other entrees that have a more heavily Vietnamese cooking base or at least equal weight with French side of cooking. Since I'm not a restaurant reviewer with an expense account or even someone with a partner to help me taste the other dishes, I'm in no position to begrudge the restaurant or its techniques! Regardless, the meal overall was just what I hoped for and wanted for my last night in Vietnam. The chocolate cake (I had CAKE!!) for dessert was heaven on a spoon. Melted chocolaty, gooey heaven served with an in-house made cinnamon ice cream. Ok so maybe/definitely pictures would do the food more justice but can't you see it in your mind/imagination? If so, good – I've done my job.
So back to Viet Nam in general. I wanted to include a few more pictures of my time over the past month in Vietnam. I have to smile because each one of these pics bring back memories - fond and otherwise, but mostly fond!
So La Verticale was part of my last night in Viet Nam. Good food, good wine, a perfect ending. So it sounds like I'm loving Viet Nam so much so now that I'm coming back right? Not so fast. I haven't decided if I want to come back yet. The feelings to return weren't instantaneous like it was for some of the other places I've visited. I was thinking that sometimes with the things you love you don't need to keep going back because the memories will always remain with you right (there is a message in there somewhere, can you see it?)? What makes me really think about the possibility of returning, however, are the people I've met and have gotten to know - from residents, to hotel and restaurant staff, to guides – all have said I need to come back so who knows? If I do I definitely won't come here alone!
Tạm biệt Viet Nam!!