Brunch Review: Hoi An, Shangri-la Hotel Dubai
Vietnam is famous for many things – its war history, scenic landscapes, stunning beaches and, of course, its cuisine. From the top-class restaurants to the streets lined with endless street food vendors, the food is unlike anything else in the world. However, when it comes to South Asian cuisine, Vietnamese is still largely undiscovered in favour of more readily available options, such as Indian or Thai, but once you’re exposed to its vibrant flavours, you’ll want more.
During a recent trip to Vietnam, we got to sample these unique dishes first-hand. The most surprising thing, in our opinion, was the amount of fresh produce used. In other words, you can pretty much gorge without feeling too guilty. So when we got invited to try the Vietnamese brunch at the stunning Shangri-La Hotel Dubai’s Hoi An, we knew we were in for a treat.
With an entirely Vietnamese kitchen and service team, Hoi An offers a mesmerising blend of authentic flavours and traditional hospitality. In fact, the unique Asian ambiance is complemented by a wide variety of delectable Vietnamese dishes served in traditional style on bamboo platters and even lotus leaves.
As a result, we’re immediately transported to a quaint restaurant in the heart of Vietnam’s Hoi An, instead of Dubai’s bustling Sheikh Zayed Road on a Friday afternoon. Fortunately, we remember some of the words we picked up during our visit to Vietnam, so we’re able to greet the staff in their language with ‘xin chào’ (okay, so we only know how to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, but it’s a start).
The brunch is a la carte and delivered to our table. There is an extensive menu to choose from, so it’s a good job the staff are knowledgeable about the dishes and confident enough to make recommendations for newbies to the cuisine. We start with cold rice rolls and an appetiser trio featuring shrimp with chicken and crispy coconut prawns in a rice basket with tropical fruit salsa. It will set your taste buds alight and have them twitching in anticipation of what’s to come. There is, of course, pho which is Vietnam’s most famous dish; an aromatic broth made with beef or chicken, noodles, vegetables, fresh herbs and condiments for customising your bowl. It’s a satisfying meal in itself.
For main course, sharing plates are brought to the table so you get to experience a variety of ingredients and specialised cooking techniques. Seafood is the base for most Vietnamese dishes and a highlight at Hoi An is oven-baked striped sea bream with galangal, kumquat, coriander, mint and Thai basil.
For dessert, Hoi An calls on Vietnam’s French influence with dishes such as crème brûlée and coconut panna cotta with chilled mango and cream.
As we leave, we can’t help but test out our Vietnamese thank you. ‘Cam on ban’, we proudly declare to the friendly staff. They look at us like we’ve gone mad. Apparently we need more practice. We’ll just have to nail the pronunciation when we return for another Vietnamese feast.
INFO: Dhs205 (soft drinks), Dhs310 (house beverages), Fri 12.30pm-4pm, Hoi An, Shangri-La Hotel Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, 04 405 2703