Ngoc Suong Takes Classic Seafood Favourites to the Next Level
From its humble beginnings selling fresh seafood classics on the shores of Cam Ranh to its current status as the standard-bearer for Vietnamese hải sản (seafood), the story of Ngoc Suong takes us through nearly a century of history. Very few establishments have survived the test of time, through multiple wars and a revolution that has dramatically transformed the country over just a few decades.
Despite those changes, Ngoc Suong is an emblem of Vietnamese culinary culture, which revolves heavily around seafood.
“Our country is all about the sea,” says chef and owner Le Quoc Vinh.
“The number one and most well-known type of cuisine in Vietnam is seafood. And if you’re a Vietnamese family, you don’t take your family for a steak dinner on a special occasion. You go for a seafood dinner.”
This celebrated tradition in Vietnam is an integral part of the local way of life that is also a defining characteristic of Ngoc Suong. And despite its long history, Ngoc Suong's authentic recipes and dining style has remained largely unchanged. “At least 85% of our menu is still the same as it was in 1955,” says Vinh.
Even for foreigners who don’t speak Vietnamese, it is easy to spot the seafood eateries in just about any city in Vietnam. They are everywhere and extremely popular. Most places that serve seafood are at least partially outdoors, often furnished in a no-frills setting with plastic tables, chairs, and stools. Guests often go in large groups with family or friends, and typically order a variety of dishes to be shared by everyone at the table. Hot pot, rice paper rolls, fried noodles, fried rice, and whole pan-fried fish are among the highlights you’ll find at any traditional seafood eatery. A variety of dipping sauces accompany these dishes, including peanut sauce, fish sauce, and muối tiêu chanh (fresh lime squeezed over mixed salt and pepper).
These favourites and a lot more can be found on the menu at Ngoc Suong. But with seafood such a ubiquitous commodity in Vietnam found around nearly every street corner, what is it that sets Ngoc Suong apart?
“Most seafood restaurants are on the street, or in the alley,” says Vinh.
“We offer authentic Vietnamese food but with a fine dining experience.”
Ngoc Suong on Suong Nguyet Anh street in Saigon’s central District 1 is situated in a sumptuous, spacious wooden building that is an unmistakable remnant of the French colonial era. Gorgeous wooden carvings, wide staircases, and beautiful light fixtures characterise this elegant space, with ample seating on three floors. The top floor is a lounge that can be reserved for private parties. The character of the building alone is something that sets it far apart from almost any other establishment in Saigon.
Yet the fine dining aspect of Ngoc Suong is by no means a barrier of entry for all kinds of people to come try their legendary cuisine.
“ There is a senior female customer, probably 80 to 90 years old, who regularly comes here to eat dinner in her PJs,” Vinh shares. “Our staff are very welcoming, and we treat everyone the same. That’s one key point we really emphasize in our service here. ”
Apart from the aesthetic, Ngoc Suong also features some of the very best ingredients available, and they are almost all sourced locally.
“We want to use locally sourced ingredients, always. Even caviar!” says Vinh. “It’s gotta be made in Vietnam, and we have to taste everything. It has to be right. We don’t want shady sources, because we’ve already earned a reputation and built trust with our customers. People know they can come here and get not only the most authentic Vietnamese cuisine with recipes handed down through the generations, but the highest quality as well.”
The far-ranging menu features many traditional highlights with a French colonial twist such as fish carpaccio, a fresh and citrusy cold dish with fresh fish, peanuts, green papaya, and a little bit of chili that can be rolled up in a rice paper wrap with fresh herbs and a delicious house-made dipping sauce. The cheese-stuffed oyster is a creamy, rich delight bursting with flavour and featuring some of Vietnam’s finest locally-sourced oysters. A crispy fried roll with creamy cheese, crab, and lobster is an indulgent delight sure to please any diner. For a more modern fusion dish with classic flavours, be sure to try the giant prawn ceviche in tom yum broth, served with banana chips. These comforting seafood favourites with a modern twist are Ngoc Suong’s specialty, and are what have kept their loyal customers coming back over decades.
Owner Le Quoc Vinh along with recent addition to the team Executive Chef Daniel Hohng, who has worked in Michelin Star restaurants in America, freshly introduced the next exciting chapter for Ngoc Suong: a new restaurant and bar concept opened in late February.
“We are bringing the Hollywood vibe and world vibe to Saigon,” says Vinh. “Festive dining is a new trend in the world. So at the same time that it’s a restaurant and a bar, it’s like an outdoor club too. We’re going to have the best food in an open garden, a world-class bartender, and after 8 pm we’ll feature great local and international DJs on an L-Acoustic sound system, which is the same sound system used for Adele and Beyonce’s live shows.”
Featuring the same quality customers have come to expect from Ngoc Suong since 1955, Vinh and Daniel’s new venture is a no-expenses-spared resort-style dining experience featuring indoor and outdoor spaces with enough seating for over 200 guests, and it is located centrally at 06 Thai Van Lung Street in District 1, near popular landmarks like the Opera House and Nguyen Hue street. You can expect Michelin quality cooking of classic homestyle Vietnamese seafood comforts, as well as incredible cocktails, all in what is sure to be Saigon’s hottest new entertainment venue and club.
As Ngoc Suong celebrates this special milestone, customers can enjoy a 10% discount on food menu of Ngoc Suong Seafood and Bar; from now until the 15th April 2020.
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Image source: Ngoc Suong Seafood & Bar