Sunday, 08/10/2023 09:52

Ola Hale, a home away from home

By Thu Ngân

What do you like to do on a rainy day? Sit and read a book and listen to the pit-pat of the rain?

I like exactly these things, but liked it even better when I sat next to a big window with beautiful views and a lot of privacy, eating truly unique and delicious stuff.

The opportunity came to me out of the blue on a rainy day in Hồ Chí Minh City when I and my two children tried to find a place to avoid a sudden downpour.

We were walking on Hai Bà Trưng Street in District 3 when we saw a restaurant and bar opposite Tân Định Church called Ola Hale - Restaurant & Bar.

It seemed like a brand-new place.

After making sure it was open to customers, we decided to walk in.

Since it was coming up to lunch time, we went to the second floor with the first being for cocktails.

Soon as I entered the second floor I went “wow” at seeing a glass wall looking out to the sandstone-ochre Tân Định Catholic Church, an iconic place that most visitors to HCM City come.

It was a no-brainer to choose a table next to that glass wall, where I got the feeling I could grab the church with my hands.

Ola Hale with views of the iconic Tân Định Church. -- Photo Courtesy from the restaurant

The servers brought the menu and we chose dishes they said were typical Hawaiian.

While waiting for the food, we were told about the origin of the restaurant’s name: “Ola” means alive or well-being, and “Hale” means home. So, in Hawaiian, Ola Hale means a home for well-being.

The journey of Ola Hale began with Christina, a Vietnamese born in Việt Nam but raised in Hawaii.

With their deep-rooted traditions connected with nature, Hawaiians embrace warmth, love, openness, determination, and pride in their homeland. Christina's bond with her heritage has remained similarly strong.

Ola Hale celebrates culture and pays tribute to the beauty of nature, and represents warmth, hospitality and the spirit of “Ohana”, or family.

History lesson done, I started looking around and checked out the other floors, admiring the decor, which I had initially not noticed since I had had eyes only for the large window and the church.

The building is a modern city house of the 1990s. To honour its history, the owner decided to retain as much of the old building as possible, while creating new spaces and adding details that celebrate Việt Nam as well as evoke Hawaii.

The ground floor entrance to Ola Hale is reminiscent of how Vietnamese people often welcome guests into their homes while immersing in a garden full of activities for families and children.

The second floor is a dining-focused space, good for organising parties and family and business gatherings.

A cocktail in the refreshing evening air on the third floor is an excellent choice for people of all ages to enjoy Happy Hour after a long day. Besides, this is the best open-air place to take a photo of Tân Định Church.

The rooftop is a private space meant for intimate gatherings with candles, cocktails and romantic music.

After the mandatory photos and free starters of dried breadfruit, our food came.

Typical foods at Ola Hale, which serves a fusion of Vietnamese and Hawaiian cuisines. – Photo courtesy of the restaurant

My son got a signature poke bowl called ahi poke while my daughter had loco moco. I chose huli huli chicken made from boneless chicken leg, teriyaki sauce, salad, pumpkin puree, and chili oil.

My son’s eye-catching ahi poke was a bowl of raw tuna, maui onion, cottonii seaweed, sesame, shoyu, rice, diced pineapple confit, pumpkin seeds, avocado, and sake.

We were told that poke bowls are the classic Hawaiian dishes. 

The restaurant serves three kinds of bowls: ola hale, ola pike bowl with a wide choice of base, protein, sides, and flavours and a vegetarian option.

If you are a vegetarian, you can opt for the healthy mushroom poke containing lettuce, mushroom, maui onion, green onion, shoyo, pumpkin seeds, avocado, and apricots.

The bowls range from VNĐ220,000 to 270,000 (US$9-11).

Poke bowl, a must-try dish at Ola Hale. -- Photo courtesy of the restaurant

My daughter’s loco moco had a wagyu beef patty, Nori rice, panko egg, and salad. It cost VNĐ250,000 ($10).

Interestingly, all the dishes were a fusion of Hawaiian and Vietnamese cuisines.

The blend of genuine Hawaiian flavours and Vietnamese spices goes well with craft beers, offering a cross-cultural experience that will satisfy your palate. 

It was still raining heavily when we were finishing up lunch, and so we decided to stay back and have something to drink.

My children picked tea made of oolong, peach mango and lime, I chose Hawaii’s most famous iced tea with a touch of Việt Nam — iced plantation V.

I was so impressed with the drink menu. The attractive way it introduced each drink made me want to order all of them.

“Enhancing your body circulation with healthy green nutrition”, “Did you have enough vitamins from the sun? Now, it’s time for our inner body”, “Healthy body starts from building the immune system of your body. Here is for you!”, and “Make your smoothies more special with fresh ingredients of our suggestion!”

How do you choose one over the other?

Since the restaurant was new and relatively unknown yet and it was raining, we had a quiet time with our drinks, doing our own thing and occasionally admiring the church, which looked even more beautiful behind the rain trickling down the window.

It was irresistible for my daughter who loves drawing. I was just happy to lounge, listening to the rain and enjoying a lovely piece of the city.

We left the restaurant after spending over two hours, and promised to each other we would return soon to try other dishes or just have fun on the rooftop with friends.

“More than a place, but a feeling. I am everything that reminds you of Home – a place filled with cherished memories lover and joy. I am where you flourish and dream. I am Ola Hale. Aloha!”

The writing was on the wall. This was exactly how we felt during our two hours there. Ola Hale is not just a restaurant, it brings you a feeling of home. VNS


Ola Hale - Restaurant & Bar

Address:   270-272 Hai Bà Trưng Street, District 1, HCM City

Price: from VNĐ45,000–300,000

Tel: 0909 918 860

Comment: Vietnamese and Haiwaii foods with delightful beverage and cocktails.

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