As beﬁts a nation with an educated populace hurtling towards a 21st Century lifestyle, Vietnam has a prosperous and expanding middle class, well augmented by large numbers of expatriates working and living there.
One indicator of this acculturation is nouvelle restaurants – not nouvelle cuisine, necessarily, just all-around nouvelle: modern decor, unusual menus, hip bar drinks, designer china and cutlery, wonderful ﬂowers and foliage, and art work that compels a stop and a long look.
One extra-muggy day my son Dunny took me to a brand-new nouvelle for lunch, where we sat at a primo table right at river’s edge.
Our salad course – headlined with gorgeous baby mache, beautifully and simply dressed – arrived in on a handsome cone-shaped plate. It was perfect, as if picked just ﬁve minutes earlier.
Our light main course was a rice dish ﬂavored with something smokey herb with no English translation, topped with shrimp barely touched with a hot and spicy sauce, surrounded by a strong greens and a peppery dressing. It was just right – hot weather and hot foods go together like birds and feathers! And as for how hot the weather was, take a close look at the butter!
We had crisp cold slices of melon for dessert, and I imagined that it was one of the great pyramid of melons that I had seen that morning on a barge headed for the teeming Ho Chi Minh City markets.