That Japan has some of the world’s finest cuisine, there can be absolutely no doubt, and it is rightly renowned around the globe. However, it could also be said that it can sometimes lack piquancy and zest while it excels in numerous areas.
Fortunately, if you feel like adding a bit of spice to your life, there are numerous other options to choose from, and perhaps one of the best – and increasingly popular in Japan – is Vietnamese. As of 2018, there were 331,000 Vietnamese living in Japan, a dramatic increase from just 52,000 in 2012, and one result is that there has been an explosion of Vietnamese restaurants in the country, offering up such delicacies as pho, banh mi, and banh xeo.
There are several great eateries right here in Hiroshima. Here are a few that you could try.
Airy, spacious, and stylish, Miss Hoa is perhaps Hiroshima’s best-known Vietnamese restaurant. The atmosphere is one of Asian adventure, with outdoor and indoor seating, pictures portraying Vietnamese scenes, and even a small stream rolling through it, atop which float delicate lotus flowers.
The cuisine is more pan-Asian than strictly Vietnamese and includes nasi goreng (rice dishes), mi goreng (noodles), green and sweet potato curries, delicious spring rolls of tuna and avocado, and Vietnamese pork and shrimp crepes. If you still have room after all of that, the Vietnamese style desserts are a real highlight.
Established in 2018, Ao Baba takes the authenticity of their dishes extremely seriously. They import all of their noodles, rice paper, and other such products from their very own factory in Vietnam.
Exploding with flavor, their pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) is a big hit, but even if that isn’t your thing, they have more than 80 dishes on offer, all of which are classic Vietnamese cuisine, and their curry is pretty special. And if you need confirmation of its quality, all you need do is witness the number of Vietnamese people who fill the store on any given day.
Named after Hanoi’s northern capital – where the best refreshing noodle soup dishes come from – Hanoi Pho from the outside looks a little pokey, but inside, it opens up to a warm, family atmosphere.
With its menus in English, it is ideal for those of you who are new to Vietnamese cuisine and cannot read Japanese. It is probably tempting to just go for the pho (or one of the pho sets), but the banh mi is also a popular choice and is bursting with cilantro. Finish off with a Vietnamese coffee, dark and thick, mixed with silky sweet condensed milk; an absolute classic.
If you want to take a step away from the ‘street food’ vibe that most Vietnamese restaurants go for, Chilan is the place for you, as it looks more like an elegant cafe bar of Hoi An than a spit-and-sawdust family restaurant of Saigon.
The Vietnamese chef is passionate about locally-sourced food, and all ingredients come from the Setouchi and Hiroshima regions. The spring rolls and banh mi are definitely the most popular items, particularly for lunch, but there is much more besides. If you can’t choose, why not plump for a course menu? You really can’t go wrong.