The cabbie brings us back to the area where Drisdelle had looked up the dog restaurant the first time. The place ends up being very close to where we were originally dropped off hours ago.
Up the steps into a large open room. There’s no one here, just one table of people who presumably work here. Yep, they seat us at a table. Don’t seem to speak any English.
Our server is pretty young. He brings over a menu which is entirely Vietnamese. Hmmmmm we’re not really sure what any of the dog dishes are so we just point at the back wall where there is a giant sign with a husky on it. He nods and clicks his pen.
We point to the other sign on the back wall. This one with a cat on it. “No no no”, he shakes his finger. Well maybe that was going too fast anyways.
Our server sits with us and writes on the menu. He picks three dishes that he conveys are dog, and then a couple of other things which we have no idea. Sure, we’ll just take your word for it. And a round of Saigon Greens for the win.
A young girl brings over our beers. She seems to have an attitude. She’s reluctant to smile. Maybe she was just shy. We relax with the beers while waiting for the meat to come out.
Our server is sitting with the girl and three older guys. Their table is littered with periwinkles which they’re going to town on and forming just a massive pile of empty shells. There is a bottle of mystery booze on the table that they’re pouring into little cups. One of the guys has a metal bong that is resting in an ice bucket. He brings it up and releases the dragon every once in a while.
Our first couple of dog dishes come out. One is a pile of meat that is cold. It tastes a little like roast beef. Has some tough bits once in a while and a ring of fat. The other dish is dog sausage which is kind of hard and crunchy on the outside and then creamy dog meat inside. This is instantly tasty. We have mixed reviews on the first pile of meat.
The girl also brings over a bowl of vegetables. This looks like the fixings you would get for a bowl of pho. There is lime, basil, some broad leaf that I’m not sure what it is, and then some stalks of lemongrass. We have no idea what it’s all for. There’s also a small ramican with lime and what looks to be sugar. No idea.
We get into the sausage and the meat. It’s pretty decent. The sausage especially. The table of servers and drink old dudes is watching us with great interest. They’re cracking up and making fun. We are the joke but aren’t sure why.
The third dish comes out. It is cubed dog meat that has been cooked in lemongrass and some other spice. It’s the best one by far.
Finally they’d poked fun and our young server had seen enough of us eating these dishes all wrong. He comes over to the table and gives us a dog dish lesson.
First he takes the small ramican with lime and sugar and whatever else. He squeezes two lime halves into it and mixes this into a sauce. Then he takes one of the big leaves, places some of the meat from the new dish in it and folds the leaf into a little package. He then mimes that you dip this into the sauce and eat it.
I take the little dog leaf package and dip it in the sauce he’s made and take a bite. Wow! This has transformed the dish dramatically. It was delicious. A huge balance of different flavors between the lemongrass meat, the leaf and that limey kind if sweet sauce. It was killer, this just jumped straight to the top dish of the trip so far.
The dish that looked like roast beef was supposed to be dipped in this tangy brown sauce. We have no idea what’s in it and no idea how to find out. I just go for it. It’s ok, still not as good as the other two. I make a little leaf package with it and do the sauce thing. Oh yeah, that’s where it’s at. Damn this dog dinner is incredible.
We thank the youngin for the instructions and get another round of SGs. The chop sticks are flying now and we’re making little dog leaf packages and mailing them to Tastyland.
Midway through the dog gorging one of the older dudes comes over to our table with a large glass of the mystery booze. He motions that we will each have a drink and pass it around. MacKay is up first. This is the face of painful dissatisfaction. The old guy and everyone at the server table is laughing at his reaction.
Drisdelle takes a swig, “Hmmm that’s not too bad actually.” I’m up next. I drink a bit and leave some for the old dude to finish. “Whiskey and black tea?”, “Yeah, kind of a whiskey and tea flavor”, “Let’s get some more of that, fuck these Asian lagers, they just make you bloated.”
After this initial whiskey tea breaking of the ice everyone wants to hang out even though we can’t speak the same language. But in a way, when you have a drink with someone you actually are speaking the same language. They want to get a group shot so we get set up. I hand my phone to the drunkest old dude in the place. This outta be good. All you have to do is press the camera icon of course but he’s tapping and laughing and we don’t know what’s going on. Just holding the smile face for way too long.
Ok old guy, what are you up to? I go to investigate. He’s got two videos. One of us holding smile faces way too long, one of his fingers over the lens and then 2 more pics of his fingers. Good try, good try. I rearrange his hands and we manage to get a result.
Now he wants a pic with the rest of them. I go over to their table with my phone. The girl keeps hiding her face. She is shy or something doesn’t want to be in a pic. This starts a bit of a tickle fight with the others and everyone is laughing with their pile of periwinkles.
After picture time we go back to finish up all the dog meat. I start taking the roast beefy one and adding both sauces and the leaf. Wow, this dish has come alive. Damn it might be my favorite one now, sausage pulling up the rear.
We clean the plates. Delicious. But not before another huge round of pass the whiskey tea. MacKay is near death. Drisdelle and I don’t understand it. I think it’s pretty good. We ask for some more. They’re so happy.
Well that was incredible. Exceeded all expectations. Didn’t know what we’d get with dog dishes but I’m glad we scouted it out because that meal was possibly the best of the trip so far.
We get a round of man hugs from our new friends and a high five from shy girl. We thank them over and over for the food and hospitality and we’re back down the steps and into the Hanoi streets again.