Category Archives: Restaurants

The Governor’s Colonial Dinner in Hue, Vietnam

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La Residence – Hue
5 Le Loi Street,
Hue City,Vietnam
+84 (0)5 43 83 74 75
http://www.la-residence-hue.com/
resa@la-residence-hue.com

 

 

food bWe arrived earlier today in the ancient imperial city of Hue, Vietnam. Dark clouds hover above the facade of La Residence, but the hotel is in a festive mood, with the Christmas holidays just around the corner.  We have planned a special evening – to dine outdoors enjoying what the hotel refers to as “the Governor’s Colonial Dinner.” We go down early to spend some time in the garden, sipping an aperitif. Even at dusk, I can see that the grounds are lush with flowering shrubs and frangipani trees, illuminated with lantern-like fixtures. The song of the cicadas lures us to wandering along the lighted pathways. Fortunately, the skies hold back and we are treated to the experience of dining outdoors in this romantic setting, made even more magical by countless flickering candles placed around the terrace and on our table.

It is a decadent meal of many courses, the portions just the right size and presented like works of art. How masterful is our chef, Dong Hai, who creates such delicacies as Orange Marinated Prawns and Green Papaya Salad with Ginger Dressing. His gallery of dishes, an exquisite fusion of Asian and French cuisine, has us tasting local fish on a Confit of fresh vegetables and a Fine Herbs Salad & Citrus Sabayon. And oh, the “Young Rice Ice Cream with Vietnamese Sweet Rice Wine” is enough to make us sigh with pleasure. Something we do often during this meal.

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Chef Dong Hai

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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Spices Garden – a restaurant and cuisine that dazzles…

sg 7SPICES GARDEN
Hotel Metropole Hanoi Legend
15 Ngo Quyen Street
Hoan Kiem District
10000 – Hanoi
VIETNAM
http://www.sofitel-legend.com/hanoi/en/our-legend/

 

 

 

 

food 3The Spices Garden is one of the restaurants at the Legendary Hotel Metropole in Hanoi.  I can hardly believe it, but here we are experiencing a stay at this fabled hotel with all it has to offer.

Seated at our table, we have a view of the garden and courtyard with their twinkling lights, which seem to cascade everywhere like fairy dust. So too the candlelit interior of the restaurant just sparkles with elegant table settings.

For the first-time visitors to the city that we are, Spices Garden offers us the opportunity to sample some of the finest examples of the culinary traditions of Hanoi as well as the specialties of both the North and South of the country. We hardly know where to begin, so our waiter comes to the rescue and guides us through our multi-course dinner, suggesting that we start with the crab, asparagus and mushroom soup. Cac Mon Cuon offers us a tasty selection of Spring Rolls.

For our main course, we select two different entrees – Cha Ca, Red River fish with rice noodles, shallots, peanuts and herbs and Black Angus beef with lemongrass and garlic. It is easy to see how wonderfully and healthfully balanced the cuisine of Vietnam is, with textures and tastes perfectly paired. We linger, sated with the flavors of Vietnam on this our first night, leaving us eager to explore more. No doubt the chef tonight has presented us with a meal that would satisfy the most discerning native of Hanoi.

sg 9h28

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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A Bangkok Celebration of Taste and Talent

Sala Rim Naam Restaurantsrn 9
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
48 Oriental Avenue
10500 Bangkok
Thailand
http://www.mandarinoriental.com

srn 2   What better way to begin one’s visit to the City of Angels than to rest after a long international flight before heading out to the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, the city’s most historic and elegant hotel. Arriving by boat ferry enables one to have a glimpse of the hotel from the Chao Phraya River, which is a delightful experience. With reservations at the Sala Rim srn 6Naam Restaurant, the hotel provides a ferry shuttle back across the river in their private launch, but not before you have had a chance to enjoy a stroll through their gardens and terrace, lit by countless tiny white lights, lending a sense of magic to the evening.

At Sala Rim Naam, one discovers Thai food at its finest, which is a treat for first-time visitors to a country known for its cuisine, where the sharpness of chili and spices is perfectly balanced with the sweetness srn 4of ingredients such as coconut cream. Here, the chefs know how to harmonize these flavors, in compositions that amuse the palate and please the eye.

Waiters are attentive and point out in advance which offerings on the set menu tonight are “spicy”, thus giving diners unaccustomed to Thai cuisine the opportunity to request a milder version of the dish where appropriate. Our starters include tidbits of fresh watermelon topped with sweet dried fish and herbs, Northeastern style rice and pork sauce, srn 3and stir-fried soft shell crab with red chili and crispy garlic. These are followed by a slow dance of local specialties – each step measured to perfection in presentation and timing – not to mention the flavors of each bite. Steamed curried fish and scallop mousse, smoked prawn soup with fresh herbs, stir-fried vegetables with oyster sauce, grilled beef sirloin and Siamese eggplant, accompanied by Hom Mali rice…

srn 5The pleasures of the table are accompanied by traditional Thai music and dance performances. The first musician plays the Ranat Ek, a boat-shaped instrument with wooden bars suspended across it length. These are struck by two soft mallets producing a soft, mellow tone. Paired with the gentle tapping on the two headed Taphon a traditional barrel-shaped drum and other traditional Thai instruments, the background music is both soothing and stirring as we dine. Soon we enjoy a variety of dances, performed in vibrant costumes by women who move with the gracefulness of blossoms caught in a breeze.

Every element of this first evening in Bangkok whispers a warm welcome. With hands pressed together, our Thai hostess at Sala Rim Naam has greeted us with the words, “Swasdi!”  May I say, “Kob-Kun,” thank-you for an unforgettable evening.

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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Living the Dream – at the Old Cataract, Aswan

The Old CataractSofitel Legend Old Cataract
Abtal El Tahrir Street
Aswan, Egypt
+2-097-231-6000
http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-1666-sofitel-legend-old-cataract-aswan/index.shtml

A chilled glass of karkade, a beautiful ruby-red hibiscus tea, is offered as a welcome treat the moment we arrive at the legendary Old Cataract. I cross the terrace, entranced. How often have I sat on this terrace in the past, brief visits, dreaming that someday I would have the privilege of staying here as a guest? A friend once suggested that dreams should be marked on our calendars – appointments with our destinies. I liked that idea and here I am. I am thrilled to discover that we have been given a large suite, with a stunning view of the Nile from our balcony.    Within our gaze, on the western bank, are reminders of Aswan’s multi-layered past – we overlook Elephantine Island, home of the ancient Nilometer and witness to the cult of Khnum, god of the cataract and inundation. Remains of ancient temples stand solid, silent testimonials to Egypt’s glorious past.   In the distance, we have evidence of the Islamic in the domed mausoleum of Agha Khan III, leader of the Ismaili sect of Islam and there too are reminders of Coptic Christianity in the fortress-like ruins of the Monastery of St. Simeon founded in the 7th century. My eye travels a little further north and finds the colorful mud-bricks homes of a Nubian village.    History, religion, culture – it is all here.    I take it in ever so slowly, but what really captivates me is the overall view – the distant mauve-colored desert backed by an infinite blue sky, the rocky islands, the great river iridescent in the bright sunshine, and most of all the triangular white sails of the feluccas drifting lazily with the winds, the only movement that breaks the stillness of the morning. It is a banquet for the senses.

I feel like a child that has been taken by the hand to the pastry shop, given permission to choose as many sweets as I want. Do I choose to walk in the shaded gardens amid the date palms, mimosas, broad-leaved banana trees and oleanders or sunbathe by the pool that overlooks the Nile, with a frosty lemon drink in hand, and watch the languid passage of the sailing vessels?   Built in grand Victorian style in 1899, the Old Cataract is indeed legendary, its existence forever linked to the British occupation of Egypt. We dine our first evening at its 1902 Restaurant.  Back in its day, there was an orchestra discreetly seated in a gallery hidden from the view of its 200 elegantly-attired guests who came to dine and to dance.  The opening ceremony of the restaurant was held in 1902, hence its name, and was attended by men and women of prominence, including the sovereign of Egypt, the Duke of Connaught, Lord and Lady Cromer, Sir Winston Churchill as well as many other dignitaries.  The restaurant has recently undergone an extensive renovation, restoring every detail of its original design – a Moorish hall with red and white traditional interior arches supporting its 75-foot dome.   It is softly lit and simply magical.   There is no orchestra, but the piped-in classical music succeeds in transporting us back in time, to a more graceful, less stressful era.

I try not to miss even a single detail of its interior – the mashrabeyya, the colorful stained glass, the pierced brass Oriental lanterns, floating like stars above our heads. The arrival of an amusebouche brings my attention back to the table. The chef has prepared a little something to tease our taste buds before embarking on a culinary journey at his most capable hands – a delectable goat cheese salad, lobster bisque, baked sea bass, and duck with Marsala.   The cuisine is French, artfully plated, and excellent by any standard. We have left no room for their selection of cheeses or rich desserts, but cannot say no to the chef’s offer of a fresh strawberry granita served in a tiny stemmed goblet.

There is such pleasure in the details, none of which seem overlooked here at the Old Cataract. Breakfast on the terrace is the perfect way to begin one’s holiday.   We are welcomed with a chilled glass of guava juice to sip as we drink in the most beautiful vista on earth!   We enjoy an assortment of breads and pastries, fruit and cheese, eggs and coffee. We are in no hurry to be tourists. We have been blessed with the opportunity to see the sights many times in the past – Philae Temple, Elephantine Island, the Aswan Dam, the unfinished obelisk….. This time, we are simply going to savor the Old Cataract as our destination and Aswan as if it were our neighborhood. We are simply going to live the dream…

In the words of Khalil Gibran:

“The most beautiful thing in life is that our souls remain hovering over the places where we once enjoyed ourselves.”

This story appears in my book, “Afternoon of Honey” which you can preview and order by clicking on the link.

Afternoon of Honey  cover Afternoon of Honey

 

 

 

More about my other books.

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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A Veritable Feast in Verona

Ristorante Antica Torretta WEBRistorante Antica Torretta
Piazza Broilo, 1
37121 Verona
39-045-801-5292
http://www.ristoranteanticatorretta.com
info@ristoranteanticatorretta.com

 

 

Ristorante Antica Torretta - eggplant appetizer WEBHow beautiful is the view of Verona’s ancient Roman bridge, built in 100 BC! We have been enjoying a walk along the banks of the Adige River and now Ponte Pietra beckons us to cross it and explore the centro storico of the city. We turn right and within minutes we find ourselves in Piazza Broilo and facing a restaurant named Antica Torretta with a canopied “garden” for outdoor dining. They are open early for lunch, which is unusual for Italy. We have worked up an appetite by now, so this is where we decide to satisfy it. We have not dressed forRistorante Antica Torretta - gnocchi WEB such an elegant restaurant, but the warm welcome we receive puts us at ease, and our decision to lunch here, we discover, is no accident. Our pranzo turns into a celebration with the first bite. Our wedding anniversary was just last week – we decide that this is the meal that will mark the occasion in grand style.

We ask our waiter, Dragos, to select the wines to accompany this multi-course feast and we sit back and enjoy. The wines are all from Valpolicella, the vine-growing region of Verona province and are Ristorante Antica Torretta - tagliatelle WEBtypically made from three grape varieties, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. A Valpolicella Classico 2012 accompanies our antipasti and two pasta samplings: gnocchi with black truffles in butter and tagliatelle with Finferli mushrooms, in a Parmesan cream sauce topped with crispy Speck. The festa is capped with our secondo, a Chateaubriand with truffles and roasted potatoes. At the beginning of our meal, Dragos tells us of one customer who said the flavor of the gnocchi danced in his mouth. I would have to agree. The flavors Ristorante Antica Torretta - Chateaubriand WEBand the atmosphere glide and twirl together like a perfect waltz, the memories of which will linger beyond this moment.

Before long, a black bird lands on our table and lingers, like a wine connoisseur to inspect our wine selections. Our feathered friend seems to approve. A Valpolicella Ripasso is a superior dessert wine made with partially dried grape skins that have been left over from the fermentation of Amarone. It now is poured into a new glass to Ristorante Antica Torretta - Tiramisu WEBaccompany our Tiramisù, a sweet made by an angel and presented like a painting.

Manuel, the young owner, in just three years has created a truly superior restaurant among many in Verona. He knows what he is doing. His chef, Olimpio and Dragos, our waiter, make the entire dining experience extraordinary. For those wishing to savor their exceptional cuisine in the summer months before the opera, Ristorante Antica Torretta opens early.

Ristorante Antica Torretta - wine connoisseur WEB

Feathered wine connoisseur

Ristorante Antica Torretta - Drago WEB

Our waiter, Dragos

Ristorante Antica Torretta - Manuel and Olimpio WEB

Owner Manuel & Chef Olimpio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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Lunch at a Palladian Villa

Il Torchio Antico WEBRistorante il Torchio Antico
Villa Godi Malinverni
Lugo di Vicenza
39-044-586-0358
http://www.iltorchioantico.com
info@iltorchioantico.com

We have seen impressive Palladian palaces in the city of Vicenza and now it is time to visit one of Palladio’s villas in the countryside. We choose Villa Godi Malinverni, completed in Il Torchio Antico - tagliere WEB1542. Situated approximately 25 kilometers north of the city, the villa is perched on the slopes of the Lonedo Hill overlooking the Astico River. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1996.

The gardens are typically Italian and include basins, fountains, statues and columns, dating back to the 17th and early 18th centuries. To the left of the villa is the barchese, a structure that pre-existed the villa and served as the horse stables. A portico was Il Torchio Antico - bucatini WEBadded, supported by Palladian columns. Opened decades ago by a previous owner as a tavern, today it houses Ristorante Il Torchio Antico. The interior is very elegant as is the outside dining area beneath the columned portico, which is where we have lunch.

A Prosecco and an amuse-bouche are offered to whet our appetites. Of the trio of tidbits, the little square of grilled polenta topped with bacalà mantecato is exceptional. A tagliere of local salumi and Il Torchio Antico - ravioli WEBcheeses is brought to our table on a well-worn wooden polenta paddle. The sweet Asiago cheese pares well with local honey and is a treat among many. We then have the pleasure of sampling Bucatini alla Lughese, a dish that has received the coveted De.Co. certification, signifying its authenticity as a historical dish of the region. It is a recipe that was created right here at the villa and is served in only three other restaurants in the area. “Short” pasta is coated in a delectable tomato sauce made with three meats – veal, Il Torchio Antico - sorbet WEBchicken, and beef, and three types of local mushrooms. It is served in a glazed earthenware crock.

A second “primo” is a dish of duck-stuffed ravioli. No secondi for us. A light sorbet flavored with the lemon verbena herb and lime provides a tasty send-off after a most memorable afternoon in the Vicentine countryside.

 

Interior of Il Torchio Antico

Interior of Il Torchio Antico

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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Dinner in a building that dates back to the 13th century

Caffè Accademia Exterior WEB

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Caffè Accademia
Via del Modello 1
06012 Città di Castello (PG)
39-075-852-3120

http://www.facebook.com/caffe.accademia.3
caffe_accademia@libero.it

Chef: Elisa Palombi

Caffè Accademia pasta 2 WEB In a small piazza by the bell tower of the Città di Castello Cathedral, or Duomo, Caffè Accademia started out several years ago as a caffè and in 2006, it became a restaurant. A cozy, elegant dining room, set in a building that dates back in parts to the 13th century, provides a memorable venue for some fantastic dining. It is an all-woman staff that sees to it that diner guests leave Caffè Accademia totally satisfied. Maruska is knowledgeable and courteous as she presents our meal and in the kitchen, Chef Elisa’s culinary talents are truly extraordinary. We decide to go with their Caffè Accademia pasta 1 WEBrecommendations and it is a wise decision indeed.

We sample two white wines, a local organic Greccheto and a Bianco del Borgo from the Cortona area of Tuscany. These go well with the two pastas: tagliatelle verdi caccio e pepe, and saccottini (little knapsacks) stuffed with the very seasonal barba di frate, or Monk’s Beard. Also known as agretti in Umbria, these greens are similar in Caffè Accademia lamb WEBlooks to fresh chives. Delicately seasoned, the agretti were then used to stuff the handmade pasta, which was first boiled, then baked in a béchamel sauce. Simply divine!

A sampling of two red wines is offered to go with our second course: one a  blend  of  four  grapes  rightfully  called  Quattro Uva  and  the second, the famous Sagrantino. The lamb, twice cooked, is so tender, one could cut it with a fork and the contorno of potatoes and thinly sliced slaw with a Hollandaise-like sauce was a Caffè Accademia wine WEBperfect side.

Desserts were innovative and delicious: one a mouse creation of strawberry and lavender, and the second dessert was a whipped Greek yogurt with caramelized blueberries. I should clarify that there were two of us to explain, or confess to, how I got to taste two of everything. Ladies, you have done yourselves proud!

Caffè Accademia interior

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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