Discover the best Vietnamese restaurant outside of Vietnam
TEXT: LOUISE OLDER STEFFENSEN | PHOTOS © DEPOSITPHOTOS.COM
Vietnamese cuisine, known for fresh ingredients, unique dishes, and an array of tastes, has been gaining popularity all across the globe. It is considered one of the most varied and seductive kitchens on the planet – a delicious mix of the food of its colonial visitors and age-old native flavours and techniques. Many forces of climate, trade, history and immigration have influenced Vietnamese cuisine.
Just by Det Ny Teater at the southern end of Copenhagen’s famous three lakes lies a little piece of Vietnam. Run by Truc Quynh Tran Choleva and her mother Loan Nguyen, the restaurant Bonjour Vietnam has won several international awards over the past few years, for the authenticity and quality of its North Vietnamese cuisine.
The restaurant provides pleasant surprises for all the senses. Its warm, bustling atmosphere is apparent even before you step through the door. With its excellent, authentic food and atmosphere, Bonjour Vietnam brings you a little piece of Vietnam − at prices that cannot quite compete with Vietnam’s, but are very reasonable indeed for a high-end restaurant in Copenhagen. Main courses are little more than 150 DKK (around 18 GBP), while the three-course theatre menu comes in at just 249 DKK. Open and welcoming of everyone, it fits in well with the trendy Vesterbro setting as well as tourists and traditional theatre-goers, without compromising on its distinct identity, carried by the talented ladies at the helm.
Loan Nguyen, who has more than 30 years of experience as a hotel chef in Vietnam, runs the kitchen with a loving but strictly traditional hand. “I may be biased, but I think what my mother does exceptionally well is picking out subtleties of flavour,” says Quynh Choleva. “We have been to many Vietnamese restaurants across Europe, and some of their dishes were quite tasty, but my mother will insist that there’s just a little bit of this or a pinch of that missing. Everything has to be done just right, and exactly the way she used to cook it back in Vietnam. That’s what gives her cooking the edge.”
An authentic taste of North Vietnam
Since opening in 2011, restaurant Bonjour Vietnam has become almost fully packed seven days a week. The restaurant was deemed Europe’s best Vietnamese restaurant by the Luxury Restaurant Awards in both 2017 and 2018, and this year, LUX Magazine named Bonjour Vietnam the ‘most outstanding Vietnamese restaurant outside of Vietnam’. The restaurant boasts the best Phở bò − an aromatic rice noodle soup − in Copenhagen and an extensive northern Vietnamese menu, which can also be sampled as take-away if the need arises.
Vietnamese food is all about light, clean flavours: fresh herbs in summer rolls, silken Pho and thin slivers of chilli. “It’s hard to talk about Vietnamese food without mentioning French colonisation, which began in the 18th century and didn’t end until 1954,” Quynh Choleva says. “Clearly, it had a lasting effect on our country, our people, our architecture and our food flavours − though Vietnamese cuisine has its own distinct expression, there are dishes, ingredients and ways of doing things that you’ll recognise from the French kitchen. That’s evident in my naming of the restaurant too.”
Vietnamese food is renowned for its freshness, evident in the use of raw vegetables and for its brilliant balance of aromatics, heat, sweetness and sourness. Sauces are one of Loan Nguyen’s specialities, and they play strong and important roles in Bonjour Vietnam’s classic dishes, such as Bò né (sweet and sour veal served on a hot plate), the fried Vietnamese spring rolls Chả giò, also known as ‘nem’, and their fresh cousins, Gỏi cuốn.
Rice is part of almost every Vietnamese meal, whether it appears as steamed rice, noodles, rice paper, vinegar or wine. Fish and meat come in all shapes and sizes, from the Hanoi favourite Chả cá (grilled sea bass served on a sizzling skillet plate with dill, sliced onion and Vietnamese pickles) to Gỏi gà, a refreshing chicken, mango and papaya salad. “Vietnamese cuisine relies heavily on herbs, aromatics and spices to create heavenly flavours. It’s very healthy thanks to its simplicity, its minimal use of oils, and its fresh ingredients,” Quynh Choleva adds.
Loan Nguyen and Quynh Choleva are originally from Phủ Lý, a city just south of Hanoi. Though they later moved to Saigon, and then to Denmark, they keep in touch with both the culture and cuisine of Phủ Lý, donating parts of their profits to Ha Nam Hospital as well as food and necessities to those in need through a newly opened ‘give-away shop’ in the city. Bonjour Vietnam is an homage to Vietnam. With their close connections to modern Vietnam, Quynh Choleva and Loan Nguyen make sure modern Vietnamese dishes are represented too: the menus are changed seasonally to allow regular guests to have a new experience every time they visit, though the classic and favourite dishes always remain. No matter who you are, the restaurant makes sure that every visit is a colourful and tasteful celebration of Vietnam and its delicious cuisine.
Address: Vesterbrogade 44, 1620 Copenhagen V., Denmark