Dim spaces, red hanging lights, smiley people. monViet Setiabudi One sets up the scene with what I imagine I would see on a hot, balmy night at old town Saigon. It is one of the few Vietnamese restaurants that choose a more traditional setting, which encourages us to try new flavors instead of picking the usual pho or banh mi.
Take a look at Com Tam Ga Bi Cha (IDR 72K), for example. Com tam, or broken rice, is a classic menu that doesn’t make many appearances at Vietnamese restaurants in Jakarta. The hero of the dish is fragrant pandan steamed rice of finely broken grains. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten rice with this kind of texture in my life. When you eat it with the sweet fish sauce, that new texture is elevated even further with punchy flavors. Served with grilled chicken and chicken pate, Com Tam Ga Bi Cha successfully tickles my curiosity to try other broken rice dishes.
The second dish, Goi Cuon Tom Ga (IDR 48K), also has a different taste. This appetizer is a Vietnamese summer rolls with shrimp and chicken. In contrast to com tam, I have seen this dish at other Vietnamese restaurants, although this is my first time trying it. What jumps out at first is the contrast of texture between the soft vermicelli noodles and the crunchy veggies inside. But it isn’t complete until dipped into some peanut sauce, giving Goi Cuon Tom Ga a familiar sweet and nutty flavor.
When talking about authenticity, it is important to note that the people behind monViet are true Vietnamese people. It started in the 1970s when a mother left her village to open a noodle stall in streets of Saigon. Fast forward to more than 35 years later, the youngest daughter used her mother’s recipe in the hotel restaurant she worked in. She experimented and developed even more recipes. Then the brother, missing his mom’s cooking, learnt those combined recipes and opened monViet. He hopes to spread the love for authentic home-cooked Vietnamese food. Job well done, if I may say.
Currently monViet has two outlets in Central and South Jakarta, fX Sudirman. Hopefully it will be able to expand to more areas in Jakarta. I’m happy that monViet has introduced me to some new interesting flavors of Vietnamese cuisine, and I’d love to be back to try even more new flavors. Keep surprising my tastebuds, monViet.
Address: Setiabudi One, fX Sudirman
Price Range: IDR 30-110K (food); IDR 26-43 (beverage)