I’ve been to Blue Ginger three times since its inception last year. Once when the first pair of Vietnamese chefs were in the kitchen, then when a sous chef of Indian origin was handling operations, and most recently after the new pair arrived. I can safely say that the standard is uniformly high. In particular, I am extremely impressed with the young sous chef: you’ll never be able to tell that a Vietnamese national has not cooked your food.
I always thought that the formula for Blue Ginger in Bangalore could not be improved: half indoors, half outdoors, it works well in Bangalore’s climate, with frogs croaking in the pool that surrounds the restaurant in the evenings. However, I have to say that the dramatic, dressy interiors of the branch in Taj Palace are more suited to Delhi and its tastes.
The best part of Blue Ginger is the pricing: most dishes are reasonable for five star hotels: only a few cost upwards of Rs 1,000. The sad news is that the best dish in the restaurant, Stir Fried Angus in Pepper Sauce, Flambéed and Served in Bamboo, costs Rs 2,400: rather steep, even though it’s worth every paisa. However, Pho, the signature soup of Vietnam, and available in Blue Ginger in versions containing tenderloin, seafood, chicken or vegetable, costs a mere Rs 950 and is a complete meal in a bowl, containing flat noodles, a mountain of moong sprouts, basil leaves imported, believe it or not, from Vietnam, and two types of sauce. I never add the sauce, though the hoisin is admittedly delicious, because the delicate clear stock is fragrant with the scent of star anise.
Vietnamese food has elements in it that come from many other countries: curries come from none other than India, stir-fries and noodles are identifiably Chinese, there’s a strong element of Thai in the flavourings that include fish sauce, many salads and baguettes are French and the Seafood Custard (Rs 400) is three steps ahead of its Japanese cousin, chawanmushi. It wins on the parameter of presentation: transparent and colourless, it has the flavour of seafood. It is sprinkled over with powdered shrimp and has a small steamed shrimp as garnish. If there was a beauty contest for food, Banh Beo would win, hands down.
Blue Ginger has a Grills section, where Aubergine with Scallion Sauce and Fried Garlic (Rs 500) sounded suitably exotic. Like all other items from this section, it comes in a do-it-yourself package: you heap a lettuce leaf with rice vermicelli and a scoop of aubergine, squeeze some lime juice, sprinkle some salt and chilli flakes, make a roll of the whole thing and try and eat it as neatly as possible. You have the option of varying each roll by adding or subtracting an ingredient or two.
The other do-it-yourself dish was the Vietnamese Roast Duck with Classical Accompaniments (half/full: Rs 2,200/4,200). The wrap was several steps ahead of its Chinese counterpart, resembling a sheet of tracing paper. It was actually rice paper, and was meant to be had with or without a lettuce leaf, hoisin and sweet chilli sauce, green onions, cucumbers and red chilly slices.
Vietnamese food has something for all tastes. And Blue Ginger is the perfect place to have it.
Food 4.50; Service 4.00; Décor 4.25
Taj Palace Hotel
Sardar Patel Marg, Diplomatic Enclave
Open from 12.30 – 3 pm and 7.30 – 11.30 pm
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Meal for two: Rs 3,500