Sunday, 27/08/2023 10:00

Stay calm at this serene mountain restaurant

By Thúy Hằng

Landscape, culture, people and food are all connected, creating great experiences whenever I travel.

Recently, I had a trip to the sacred Yên Tử Mountain in the northeastern coastal province of Quảng Ninh, which is the cradle of Trúc Lâm Zen Buddhism in Việt Nam.

The folk painting ‘Mice Wedding’ has adorned a main wall of Thọ Quang Restaurant. Other corners in the venue also have been embellished by the hand-crafted ceramic paintings from Bát Tràng pottery village in Hà Nội. — Photo courtesy of Legacy Yên Tử – MGallery 

Like most people visiting, I couldn’t skip the challenging pilgrimage to trek up to the peak to an altitude of over 1,000 metres above sea level, where an ancient Bronze Pagoda perches atop. It was hard work but worth it – I was overwhelmed by the picturesque yet tranquil bird's-eye view of the imposing mountains, dense forest, and immense blue sky.

Back at the hotel, located at the foot of the mountain – a stunning property built with inspiration from a Trần dynasty palace in harmony with the tranquil surroundings; our serene experience was extended by a singing bell meditation workshop at Tuệ Tĩnh Shrine.

'Gà hấp lá sen' (Steamed chicken in lotus leaves). — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng

In the evening, we had a wonderful culinary experience at Thọ Quang Restaurant – an all-day-dining outlet with enchanting food, but also beautiful interior décor.

The restaurant presents the typical Vietnamese ancient architectural style with a high ceiling supported by a wooden frame structure and several large pillars. The orange-coloured wall is a bold feature that complements the wooden furniture and brown title floor. 

'Nai cháy tỏi' (Stir-fried venison with crispy garlic). — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng

A large-sized ceramic painting of the renowned Vietnamese folk painting A Mice Wedding adorns a main wall in the restaurant. Several other corners in the venue also have been embellished with hand-crafted ceramic paintings from Bát Tràng pottery village in Hà Nội.

During my two-day stay, I tried a lot of nice food at the restaurant, from enticing salads to mouthwatering main courses, and enchanting desserts.

First, it was Gà hấp lá sen (Steamed chicken in lotus leaves) – a large portion of steamed sticky rice with chicken wrapped in lotus leaves. According to the waitress, all the chicken cooked in the restaurant are local free-range Tiên Yên chickens.

'Canh chua cá suối lá lâm Yên Tử' (Stream fish with sour leaves soup). — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng

The chicken was moist and tender, the sticky rice perfect. Some dried jujubes and lotus roots sliced on top upscaled the dish. And the chef was strict following a rule of Northern traditional cooking – chicken must be accompanied by lime leaves. His steamed chicken included julienne lime leaves that added a very light aroma to the dish.

I also had the chance to sample the nutritious Gà hầm thuốc bắc (Chicken stewed with medicinal herbs) – another dish made from Tiên Yên chicken.

Another must-try is the Đuôi bò hầm rượu mơ Yên Tử (Stewed ox tail with Yên Tử apricot wine) – a local version of the Italian osso buco.

The young and open-minded chef Nguyễn Phương Toàn revealed that his team had to prepare the Western-influenced dish one day before serving because “it requires at least four hours to get fork-tenderness.”

Instead of using traditional white wine or red white, the version at Thọ Quang Restaurant includes wine made from the special wild apricot picked in the Yên Tử jungle. They also use purple sticky rice to enhance the aroma and the colour of the stew. The dish also includes other Vietnamese “elements” such as lemongrass and ginger.

Quảng Ninh Coal Cake. — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng

If tourists visit Yên Tử in the winter and spring, they can sample another local specialty – Măng trúc Yên Tử (Sprout of a thin bamboo that grows only in the region). However, we were there in summer, so instead of măng trúc, we were served Măng giang xào lá lốt (stir-fried bamboo shoot with piper lolot).

Except for the texture (măng trúc is crunchier as people often cook the whole stem), it’s hard for me to distinguish the taste difference between the two kinds of bamboo. The unique aroma of the piper lolot herb turns the simple dish into a delightful one.

Nai cháy tỏi (Stir-fried venison with crispy garlic) is tender and perfectly seasoned. The taste of the meat has been enhanced significantly thanks to accompanying spices and herbs and the Northern-styled thick soy sauce.

As several streams flow in the area, the restaurant’s menu includes the Canh chua cá suối lá lâm Yên Tử (Stream fish with sour leaf soup) – a pleasant Vietnamese soup, though the small fish is bony.

Quảng Ninh is also the country’s biggest producer of coal. Inspired by this “black gold” natural resource, passionate pastry chefs at Thọ Quang Restaurant have created the Quảng Ninh Coal Cake – a ‘magic’ dessert that left us saying ‘wow’. Made with bamboo charcoal, the black pastry is soft and moist with a delicious blueberry jam layer in the middle.

Another hard-to-resist dessert. The dessert collection in Thọ Quang Restaurant is really a “gem” for anyone who has sweet tooth. — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng

The restaurant’s dessert collection is a gem for anyone with a sweet tooth – all are gorgeous, elaborate, and delicious.

With a focus on offering an authentic Vietnamese dining experience, Thọ Quang is an ideal gastronomic spot for tourists in the region, where they can learn more about the local Vietnamese culture through their amazing food creations.  VNS


Address: Legacy Yên Tử – MGallery, Thượng Yên Công Commune, Uông Bí City, Quảng Ninh Province

Tel: +84 2036259888

Price: from VNĐ200,000/dish.

Comment: Elegant furnishings, relaxing ambience, satisfying menu features a wide range of Vietnamese and Western food. A vegetarian menu is also available.

Special offer: For the upcoming Vietnamese Independence Day, September 2,  the restaurant introduces a special BBQ buffet menu called “The Independence Culinary Journey Edition” on September 1 and 2, at VNĐ1,499,000 per person.

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