Sunday, 23/07/2023 10:00

Italian chef shows know-how of local food

By Thúy Hằng

I had a short two-day work trip to Đà Nẵng last week. Unlike my previous trips when I celebrated my vacations by soaking in the bright sun and the blue sea, this trip I didn’t have a chance to dip into the sea to feel the cool water on my skin.

Lyla Restaurant presents contemporary interior design. — Photo courtesy of voco Ma Belle Danang

When we arrived the voco Ma Belle Danang – a newly opened hotel located right on the city’s beachside road, it was almost noon and I immediately grabbed my laptop to work. I met the work deadline, but was a bit late for a group lunch hosted by the hotel.

Rau càng cua (pepper elder) salad with prawn and tomato dressing. — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng

When I rushed to Lyla, the hotel’s all-day-dining restaurant, to gather with colleagues, Italian Executive Chef Igor Pescarolo was presenting the menu that he and his kitchen team had designed especially for us. I was surprised and also admired the foreign chef as he talked about Vietnamese dishes with knowledge and passion.

The restaurant has a contemporary design, and is the place where guests can indulge with authentic Vietnamese food or popular Western dishes, while taking in the magnificent view of the beach through large floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

Our group has chance to enjoy an Asian set menu prepared by Italian Executive Chef Igor Pescarolo at Lyla Restaurant. — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng

Pescarolo said that he fell in love right away with Vietnamese culture and food soon after arriving in the county to work nine years ago in a resort on Phú Quốc. He knew right away that he wanted to stay.

His knowledge of local Vietnamese food has been accumulated over the years as he “had the fortune to work with some very skilled sous chefs from all three regions of Việt Nam – North, Central and South.”

“Each of them taught me little secrets on Vietnamese food and their own recipes,” Pescarolo said.

Our lunch kicked off with pepper elder (locally called rau càng cua) salad with prawn and tomato dressing. Although this wild herb is not eaten widely in the North, it is a very popular salad in the Central and the Southern regions.

The rau càng cua salad by Pescarolo was a perfect version of this dish, as the salad was fresh, the sauce jubilant, and the prawn moist yet firm. The crispy fried shallot scattered on top of the salad enhanced my enjoyment. The salad not only treated our taste buds but also our eyes, with its vivid colours – green pepper elder, pink prawns, red cherry tomatoes, and yellow and red ribbons made from bell peppers.

Steamed grouper with soya sauce and ginger. — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng

Our second course was crab and sweet corn soup – a simple yet comforting treat that seems brought me some much-needed energy, especially as I had been up since the early morning to catch my flight.

Pescarolo said seafood was his favourite, as he comes from a small village in Italy on the Mediterranean Sea. Besides this, it’s the fantastic quality and freshness of seafood in Đà Nẵng that inspires him to showcase these ocean delicacies to his clients. 

Our lunch was spiced up with steamed grouper with soy sauce and ginger, a flavoursome dish very different from those that I have had recently. Usually, the soy sauce is too much, causing a saltiness that dominates the flavours of the fish, and I can't take a second bite.

Stir-fried bok choy and mushroom. — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng

The grouper at Lyla was cooked to silky perfection. It was steamed with a savoury sauce and different types of julienned aromatics and vegetables, which provided aroma and colour. The fish itself was moist and juicy and lightly coated with the fragrant sauce. I nibbled slowly to fully feel the flavours.

We also had grilled beef with mushroom – small rolls of enoki mushroom wrapped by thin slices of beef. Although I had sampled this dish before, this was the first time I was happy with it. The beef was tender and revealed a delightful smoky BBQ smell. Pescarolo was very creative, adding small pieces of onion in the centre of the roll to offer a natural sweetness.

Next, we have stir-fried bok choy and mushroom – a healthy dish that I sometimes cook at home. Unlike my home-cooked version, in which I use both the leave and stem, Pescarolo's mainly features the stem. I have since taken to using his method

Seafood fried rice. — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng

A Vietnamese meal cannot be completed without rice, so our menu also includes seafood fried rice. Although I didn’t want it as I no longer had enough room after the previous courses, I soon changed my mind when my colleagues persuaded me to try. The rice was nice and flavourful thanks to the balance of seasoning, aromatics, vegetables, and seafood.

The lunch was concluded by a very fresh dessert of assorted fruits.

Alongside Lyla, guests can also enjoy an enticing selection of refreshing drinks and casual bites at the Ciela Skybar & Dining that perches on the hotel’s rooftop on the 26th floor. When dusk arrives, the venue transforms into a trendy cocktail bar and South American restaurant – the first of its kind in Đà Nẵng. The menu features dishes that consist of Peruvian ingredients, shaped by Japanese techniques. — VNS


Address: 1st Floor, voco Ma Belle Danang, 168 Võ Nguyên Giáp Street, Sơn Trà District, Đà Nẵng City

Tel: +84 (236) 3939 969

Opening hour: For breakfast: 6am-10am (Mon-Fri); 6am-10.30pm (Sat-Sun), and for occasional events.

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