With a decor reminiscent of quintessential Vietnamese cottages, drinks infused with signature Vietnamese coffee beans, and flavours that remind of the eastern country’s classics—with a touch of desi woven into the mix—CHÔ promises to wow gourmands. By Bayar Jain
I’ve never visited Vietnam, but the Asian nation has always found a spot on my travel bucket list. My father, however, has fallen in love with the country over his many visits. Naturally, then, he is my date to CHÔ—a new Vietnamese kitchen and bar in New Delhi.
CHÔ has been established collaboratively by Bengaluru-based Santosh Group and Chef Vaibhav Bhargava, who has brought with him Vietnamese expertise acquired during his months-long stay at the Asian country. Earlier, Chef Bhargava has worked with brands like Guppy, Noma, and Viet:Nom. CHÔ, he reveals, is his attempt of bringing Vietnam’s traditional but modern flavours to the Indian audience.
Upon entering Ambawatta One, a swanky shopping and dining complex in Mehrauli, we’re greeted to twinkling fairy lights hugging trees and potted plants all around. A left and two quick flights of stairs up the 160-year-old haveli later, we’re at CHÔ. The calm and laidback vibes are evident instantly. The wooden shelves—adorned by bamboo hats, potted plants, and small cycle rickshaw figurines—lead us into the restaurant; the leafy green murals on the walls and cane lighting radiates nature-inspired vibes all over.
The entire restaurant is divided into three kinds of seatings: indoors, outdoors, and the terrace. While the cabana-style seating and views of the iconic Qutub Minar from the terrace are enticing, its the nip in the air that compels us to choose the outdoors. CHÔ, I learn, is a derivative of the word CHÔ nhà, which means a cottage or a home in Vietnamese. The broad arches overlooking a cluster of Neem trees, the cane-style seating, and bamboo panels attests this. In its own words, the restaurant is designed to make it a “relaxed home away from home.” The warmth—partly from the hospitality and ambience, and partly from the space heater—is already making me comfortable.
It starts with a refreshing Velvety Morning Glory for my companion, and a Vietnamese High Ball for me. The morning glory is a luscious whisky cocktail with hints of roasted sattu (Bengal gram) infused with a large mulberry. Its red colours are inviting; its taste, refreshing. The highball is underlined with Vietnamese coffee flavours, with vodka serving as its base. Although the caffeine hit isn’t as obvious instantly, its heady flavours are accentuated the more I sip onto it.
For starters, the first dish we sample is the chips and dips. A steel tumbler with an assortment of crisps—made using root vegetables, rice, and banana—is brought to the table, accompanied with a small plate of edamame peas and avocado mousse. The paper-thin crisps are addictive, as should be the case with any bar snacks. The mousse itself, while slightly lacking in salt, pairs well with chips. Nibbling onto the inherently salty edamame beans makes up for this miss. Next is the Pomelo and Grapefruit salad—a colourful dish that makes me happy instantly. My salad-averse father, too, is on the same page! The tart flavours of the pomelo taste fresh, as do the crunchy lettuce and herbs. The cameos of small rice crisps into this salad lends to the dish’s dance of textures, easily making it one of my favourites from the night.
Vietnamese tapioca dumplings follow next. The sticky dumplings swim in a shallow pool of chilli oil with bright micro-greens contrasting the white tapioca dumplings. Biting into the gummy dish paves the way for a mushy mung paste couched within the round balls—a chewy flavour that is light and surprisingly refreshing. The truffles edamame peas dumplings—my preferred dish of the two—also tread a similar path wherein the flavours of the green pearls are light, bright, and evident. Each dumpling dish come with an assortment of dips ranging from spicy chilli to sweet peanut.
CHÔ’s take on the summer roll are just as delicious. The katsu tofu hidden in a rice paper casing is fresh as can be, with the Vietnamese herbs, vermicelli noodles, edible flowers adding a delectable touch. Ditching the chopsticks for this one, I gleefully dunk the rolls in peanut sauce and bite away.
Capping the appetisers—and serving as a segue to the mains—is another drink: Pickled Sour. “Take small sips, and you’ll notice the hints of wasabi,” suggests Chef Bhargava. Intrigued, I sip the red-orange hued frothy gin cocktail. The citrus flavours sweep my palate clean with flavours of the wasabi lingering as an afterthought. The pickled carrots—which are infused into the drink—get lost in the mix, without getting a chance to shine through. The wasabi is subtle—strong enough to elevate the citrus flavours but light to avoid the wasabi’s overpowering pungency.
Next up is the mock meat and warm crispy eggplant. The chunks of eggplant come garnished with crushed peanuts and tanuki chunk, and glazed with chilli caramel sauce—a flavour too sweet for my palate. The crispy mock meat’s Tso chilli sauce dressing is a happy respite. The winner, however, is the stewed vegetable in Vietnamese curry paired with steamed jasmine rice and stir-fried kale. The kale is tossed in garlic and red chilli sauce, which pairs well with the fragrant jasmine rice. The vegetables steal the show. Floating in a rich Vietnamese curry fragranced by lemongrass, the perfectly-steamed veggies (think potato, baby corn, carrots, mushroom, and tofu) are yum! The curry leaves me inspired and eager for more.
For desserts, an indulgent hot toffee pudding teases me. Stuffed to the core, my stomach is begging for respite. But seeing the heavenly caramel sauce surrounding the hot toffee pudding quashes these fights. The soft pudding slab is immersed luxuriously in the gooey sauce, with strawberry slices and vanilla ice cream to cut through the sweet. While my father quietly nibbles on the pudding, I’m scooping the caramel neat.
But what is a Vietnamese meal without a serving of coffee? The team brings me a pot of hot water and pours it over a sieve. Out drips a coffee concoction—dark, roasted, and strong. While my father enjoys his caffeine hot, I take mine poured straight on the rocks. A sip and we’re both mum. CHÔ, you’ve treated us well!
Address: Ambawatta One, H5/1, Kalkadass Marg, Mehrauli, New Delhi,
Timings: Monday to Sunday, noon to midnight
Price for two: INR 2,500 for two people (approx.)