Disappointing Recommendation in Lonely Planet
Posted on 05 / 18 / 2012
After a great run of vegetarian recommendations in our South-East Asia on Shoestring Lonely Planet guide (2010 edition), it was inevitable that one average experience would be waiting around the corner That corner happened to be the one that led us down Minihotel Alley to Zen.
The menu looked impressive with a large selection of fried, deep-fried and braised dishes. We decided to share a selection of dishes including fresh spring rolls, deep-fried eggplant and braised turnip, tofu and mushrooms in a claypot. It sounded like a meal to remember, but the dishes failed to live up to expectations.
The fresh spring rolls were the worst we have eaten in Vietnam, being dry to the point that no dipping sauce could save them and completely overwhelming with their overuse of mint. The braised vegetables and tofu in a claypot were not in a claypot and featured full segments of onion, rather than the infamous caramelised goodness you come to expect from a claypot dish in other Vietnamese restaurants. The deep-fried eggplant was a keeper, though it's not enough to save the average-at-best other dishes.
The price of alcohol was also a downer with the cheapest being a bottle of the local Saigon beer, setting you back 18,000 Dong. You can pick up a bottle of Saigon for 10,000 Dong in most places in the backpacker district, so this price seems unnecessarily high.
The service was barely worth writing about as all the waiter did was chain-smoke as he took our order and brought our food. The experience was entirely devoid of any personality or atmosphere.
If it is cheap veggie food you are after, then this may be a good spot if you pick the right dishes. I wouldn't return though and would recommend trying one of the many other vegetarian options in the district.
cheap varied menu
braised "claypot" dishes, expensive alcoholic beverages, dull