Monday, July 28, 2014

With Locals (Vietnam)

I have recently tried something interesting that led me to write and share  here in my blog. I know all of you guys are aware of the idea about home-cooked meals and sharing it to people as a paid meal is becoming a popular thing these days. Though it is not a new idea, it created a bandwagon globally! I myself have done this thing seven years ago when I opened my tiny 24 square meter avant-garde apartment in Manila and welcomed a hundred of couples and cooked them some lovely honest to goodness meals!  It is indeed called “The Artist Chef” intimate dinner for two.

Given this digital age, the idea has evolved into the next level – there are two websites that I know who are doing this thing in Southeast Asia. One is plateculture website. This site invited me to be part of their community of cooks and I currently offer a unique global cuisine dining experience on their website.  But one day, I wanted to experience this idea through a deeper Vietnamese style of cooking and I wanted other people to cook for me. I didn’t try plateculture as I have heard more buzz about this website called “WITHLOCALS” and I have been seeing blogs and links about this dining experience through local food.


I decided to bring my Italian friend and her boyfriend to try this local food in a different kind of experience since they just moved to Vietnam. I carefully looked at the roster of passionate cooks they have on their website who offer different things. Some you can find a street-food style and some are very unique in terms of experience but they are not situated in Saigon. Then I finally stumbled on this cook named “Tuan Tu.” His cooking seems to be my style of eating  & dining and that’s one of the reasons why I chose him. He is a bit pricey but I still went for him because I think his style is something that will up the ante of Vietnamese cuisine. I was looking for something that you cannot find in a restaurant but still has the charm of an honest to goodness home-cooked meals! I want something different and a serendipity dining experience.

The dinner meal cost is 30 USD per person and it’s a whopping 90 USD in total that I had to pay. The website asked for my deposit and the rest will be paid in cash to Tuan. I will recommend and guarantee that it is 100% safe to do transactions on this website. So I prepared my balance, which is 1.6 million VND before I headed to this hidden apartment in an alley right in the heart of the city center. I came in first so Tuan offered me if I like wine, without a doubt I said yes for an Australian Shiraz versus the Chile wine he had on his other hand. My two friends arrived and we appreciated the atmosphere of Tuan’s high ceiling apartment. I was expecting he would put us on rooftop with all the set up but he said rainy season is unpredictable and the rooftop is being renovated.
Moving forward to the meal Tuan served, we were welcomed by the traditional Fried Vietnamese Spring Rolls. We had 3 pieces each and it tasted good and yummy but honestly the dish has no difference with the one I tasted at Ngon, Hoa Tuc and the rest of other low and high-end restaurants in the city. Tuan also poured some wine to the glasses of my friends and served each of us with a small bowl of clam soup. It was very aromatic and comes with 3-5 pieces shells, some coriander and tomato. But still I didn’t find the kick that I was looking for.

Finally the main dish came out, the crab with tamarind sauce.  It was good and true to the taste of the dish! It is exactly how it supposed to be with a bit of the white wine flavor. But it lacked bread so we looked for it and wondered why we didn’t have. We asked Tuan and he said wait for a few minutes. I think they still have to buy outside. Lastly we were served with the last plate, which is the chicken rice.  The chicken lacks taste and the plain rice did not go well with the chicken so I just tasted a few bite and didn’t finish the dish.  


To wrap the meal, 3 glasses with cube mixed fruits were served and accompanied by a pot of Japanese Tea. It was a pleasant meal and we even had these photos that we took after the dinner. But wait until you get the bill. I was expecting to pay my 1.6 million vnd balance and what surprised me was the bottle of wine that cost 580k vnd and that’s 27 USD! I didn’t realize drinks weren’t included so you guys should read carefully the details of your bookings. It would be nice if I he told me about the price of wine that was served so at least I wouldn’t get surprised because it’s not a pleasant surprise. But it was nice to have a free pot of Japanese tea.



Over all the cost is a bit pricey for the quality of meals that were served and with the size of serving. It is a whopping total of 120 USD for 3 people or 40 USD each! It’s ok to pay that big amount but with something that is really unique and will surprise you. Taste wise it was good; it’s just so happened that it didn’t meet my expectations.





End of the story, it’s worth trying the website “WITHLOCALS” to validate the experience. It’s not a bad try with Tuan as well; he is nice and spent a lot of time talking with us. Maybe I will try something cheaper another time. Who knows it might surprise me again next time. There are a lot of passionate cooks and activities on that website and I encourage travelers or expats to try the unique experience the website is offering. It’s not just about the food; they also have some fun activities that you can check out. I would attest that their idea of giving travelers a website portal that enable them to experience an authentic local moment whether on food or local activities is such a brilliant thing on the planet!

Hope you share this story to more travelers as a heads up :)

Visit the website to explore more on your own...
https://www.withlocals.com/

big hug,
joanie  xxx