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Cục Gạch Quán

December 15, 2010

If, when you were young, you ever had a dollhouse, and regretted being too big to live in it, I have found the perfect restaurant for you.

A few weeks ago, a friend invited me out to a restaurant recommended by one of his local friends. When he told me the name of the restaurant, Cục Gạch Quán, I thought it sounded familiar. Turns out, we were in good company. One of everyone’s favorite Saigon bloggers, A Girl in Asia, as well as Travel & Leisure, had just written a review on it.

Since then, I’ve visited two more times – pleasing our out of town guests on both occasions. The restaurant is charming and cozy, and the food is fresh Vietnamese. Every dish is a hit.

There are many neighborhoods in this city that, as you walk through them, are nothing more than wall-lined streets; the wall of one housing connecting to the next so you can only guess what is behind. Cục Gạch Quán is built in a house in such a neighborhood. The gate that stands ajar is the only sign of life.

Passing through the gate takes you from a narrow, dirty street to a warm, inviting home. All three times we’ve eaten there we’ve eaten upstairs. The house is built around a tiny, open courtyard that is nothing but a fishpond, a walkway across, and a steep ladder/stairs going to a landing between the attics. On the right it is more like a room with regular chairs, tables, and a flat ceiling. The left side has me charmed. After stooping through the low door, there is a four-poster bed, draped with gauzy curtains, with pillows but no mattress, and low chairs nestled around tables under the clay roof tiles. An old armoire holds the extra chopsticks and bowls.

 

 

It’s delightful, and I haven’t even gotten to the best part. The menu has sturdy wooden covers and an overwhelming number of choices. Many of the vegetables don’t even have English names. I’ve had lotus salad, pumpkin flower, bamboo, and tofu that even I enjoyed. The stir-fried okra is amazing, and rice is served in a blue and white ceramic urn. Sparkling water is served with water spinach stems for straws in glasses that tilt a little to the side.

And, the dish that keeps making me lose my manners – the caramelized pork in a clay pot. I hog the entire portion, sometimes stabbing others away with my chopsticks. I’d be lying if I said I’d never swiped at the sauce with my finger, and lying even more if I said I didn’t want to pick it up and lick it clean.  We ordered two this time – one for me, and one for everyone else.

 

 

Before it could be photographed, we were into the second clay pot, and there were only remains of squid, tofu, beef and lotus salad, chicken and ginger, and okra.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. karen egerdahl permalink
    December 15, 2010 10:57

    I love reading your blogs, Grace!!! Just makes my day at work….especially on days we don’t have delays and cancellations.
    Seems the last week has been full of those kinds of days though!!
    I love your word descriptions of the food…makes me want to go home and cook!
    I shared your story of your trip to get your nails done, with my nail girl the other day in Newnan…she loved hearing that, and believe me…it is just as difficult sometimes to communicate with them here in the USA…but they try, that is for sure!!
    She was happy to hear about you and mentioned she had just come back from a 2 month visit to see her family!!
    Thanks for sharing your adventures, Grace!!

    • December 16, 2010 20:20

      Thank you so much. It really means a lot to me that you are enjoying these and makes me want to keep writing!

      • March 22, 2011 12:19

        Hi Grace.
        I am the photo editor at Departures magazine and am very interested in running some of your photos from Cục Gạch Quán. I’m looking for some great interior shots but it’s quite urgent. Please let me know if youre interested and email me michael.s.shome@aexp.com

        Thanks

  2. Mary Holby permalink
    December 15, 2010 14:26

    Very interesting! Can you get recipes or lessons?
    Please add pronunciation keys for us non-Vietnamese-familiar blog fans.

  3. Charity permalink
    December 18, 2010 22:03

    So do they have a chicken version of that dish cause I want to try it except it’s pork!

  4. December 20, 2010 00:42

    Grace,

    I want to check this place out! I loved reading your description of it. It looks and sounds wonderful.

    AP

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