"I don't think that I have ever been so satisfied after eating Vietnamese food", I said to my sister, as I was trying to manoeuvre the chopsticks. CHO at Ambawatta One complex is a delightful new year surprise for the locals, as well as for the ones who are looking for something different yet comforting.
The next taste of food took me to CHO, a Vietnamese restaurant in Mehrauli, Delhi. Sitting stylishly above Manish Malhotra's store at Ambawatta One complex, CHO is a 3-minute walk from Qutub Minar or less than 5 minutes from Sabyasachi's store. Upon arriving, the restaurant had a very lively and artsy look to it - warm white lights, stunning murals on the walls, bespoke tiles, wooden lamps hanging from the ceiling harkens back to the styling of Vietnam. It definitely added some character. The restaurant is quite spacious - with an indoor dining area, comfortable balcony space and, of course, a stunning terrace.
We walked past a beautiful passage that had handcrafted artefacts from Vietnam stacked on the open shelves on the right, into the dining area of the next room. That's where we were introduced to the chef and founder, Vaibhav Bhargava. Many of you might know Vaibhav from the popular Gurgaon-based Vietnamese restaurant - Viet Nom and Guppy. He passionately talked about his journey from his previous establishments to CHO, especially Viet Nom - which is a huge hit. CHO is derived from the Vietnamese words 'Cho Nha' that mean 'cottage'. The whole idea behind CHOis to offer its diners an authentic Vietnamese home-cooked (read comforting) meal experience.
Food at CHO
We started off with dim sums - Chicken Chilli Gyoza, Prawn Dimsum with Tobiko and Vietnamese with Shrimp Rose - which were generous in portion and size. They looked and smelled beautiful, a perfect way to begin with and quite wholesome than I expected. For me, Prawn Dimsum with Tobiko stood out from the rest. The prawns were fresh and juicy - while tobiko and herb topping balanced the flavour - quite refreshing!
Next, we tried Crispy Prawns rice sheet rolls. The warm rice paper skin, stuffed with herbs and crispy charcoal prawns, served with chilli lime dressing. They were quite dramatic. The chilli lime dressing had quite an Indianised touch to it.
We shared the Vietnamese pizza that comes on a rice paper base with chicken salami and toppings - it was uncommon to see a dish like that at an authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Thin, crispy and brimming with flavours, I give this dish (or experiment) a thumbs up.
While talking to Vaibhav about my disliking towards mock meat - that turned into a fun banter later - he told me that he may change my perception about mock meats and sent his signature mock meat dish. It was crispy mock meat and vegetables tossed in tso chilli sauce. Honestly, I wasn't sure of the dish initially but after the first bite of the mock meat, I immediately understood why Vaibhav was so sure that this will change my perception about it altogether.
From the small plates, we tried Roasted Mushrooms and Tenderloin in Betel Leaf. The mushrooms were piping hot, freshly roasted from the kitchen. The mushrooms were tossed on Vietnamese chilli sauce and served on a sago cracker; however, the seasoning on top of the mushroom really overpowered the taste. It still tasted delicious overall and may order again with toned down seasoning to relish it more. On the other hand, Tenderloin in Betel Leaf was quite a surprise. Minced meat rolled inside betel leaves and grilled, and served with glass noodles topped with roasted peanuts, crispy shallots and pickled vegetables. The meat was tender and was slightly chewy which gave it added texture. It wasn't overly chewy but, enough to make you appreciate and grind down the meat more to unlock the flavour. This is good for those with an appetite and stomach to go with it.
In the mains, I straight away went to Pho Xao Chicken. This is a must-have meal, especially during this time of the year. As the menu says, pho may be best known as rice noodles served in soup, but one can definitely enjoy it as Pho Xao - which is stir-fried with onions and assorted greens. Oh, and the portion size was really impressive - I actually struggled to finish off my bowl.
For desserts, I chose Hot Toffee Pudding. Soft and spongy cake topped with caramel sauce. It was light and easy to manage after a big meal, and the caramel sauce was a highlight - sweet and rich without being heavy.
'Pretty decent' is kind of an understatement for how much I enjoyed our four-course Vietnamese meal at CHO.
Where: Ambawatta One, Mehrauli, New Delhi
Price for two: Rs. 2500 for two (approx.)
About Shubham BhatnagarYou can often find Shubham at a small authentic Chinese or Italian restaurant sampling exotic foods and sipping a glass of wine, but he will wolf down a plate of piping hot samosas with equal gusto. However, his love for homemade food trumps all.