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Le Tonkin restaurant

Le Tonkin: A Vietnamese Food Haven for the Senses and Soul
Reviewed by : Kelvin Ng. Other Foodadvisor Writers?
There was a time when Mohamed Sultan, proud of its prominence on Singapore's clubbing map, had popular clubs and pubs such as Madam Wong's and Wong San's, attracting throngs of revelers and crowds every night. However, increased competition from big clubs such as MOS and the expanding Zouk has seen their exodus. In fact, when URA made land available for more residential establishments, the clubs were encouraged to shift to nearby Clarke Quay, hence many of the vacated premises were taken over by restaurant proprietors. One of them, Le Tonkin Restaurant and Lounge, is rapidly becoming a worthy destination of choice for culinary travelers seeking an exquisite dining experience of the best authentic Vietnamese and French cuisine. This new lady in the food business now sizzles like a temptress flaunting her feather boa, without doubt that she will be a crowd pleaser.

The Vibe

It is hard to miss Le Tonkin's bright golden signboard but this corner shophouse lacks the splendour one would expect from a fine dining restaurant. However, once inside, it is like being transported into ala- Moulin Rouge. Burgundy furniture and rich velvet lounge chairs infuse grandeur, befitting of Le-Tonkin. Soft flickering tea light candle flames augment the glittering stringed crystals dangling from the roman pillar in the middle of the restaurant. Behind the bar counter is a private area, ideal for private parties or corporate dinner reservations. Soft, lounge style of traditional Vietnamese music adds to a completely relaxing and romantic mood for a meal with your loved ones. Step outside, and you may enjoy either alfresco dining or the open air lounge surrounded by lush foliage and have a hearty chat with your friends over drinks and some quick bites.

The Food

Le Tonkin is the name of Northern Vietnam in the 1800s. Le Tonkin promises to respect both the East and West culinary styles; therefore she does take offence if she is mistaken as a fusion restaurant. Le Tonkin serves Vietnamese food, Hanoi style – natural and simple – with minimum condiments used.
Starting off with the appetizer, the Cha Goi Hanoi ($28) is one of their signature dishes. Popularly known as the Imperial spring rolls, they are skewered into a prettily skinned pineapple, a presentation gimmick. These crispy, tightly wrapped spring rolls are delicious, best enjoyed with the sweet and sour fish sauce provided.
Next, it is a privilege to have the preview of the cheese soufflé ($18), which will soon be added to the menu. Soft and fluffy on the inside, the soufflé's mild cheese has just enough flavour to distinguish it without being too overwhelming.
It will be almost be a sin not to try the beef noodle soup in a Vietnamese restaurant. The Pho Bo Hanoi ($18) means “Hanoi rice noodle soup with beef” and has both slices of semi cooked blanched grain fed beef as well as tenderly cooked pieces. Not accompanied by any bean sprouts, basil or shallots, it was still light and tasty, thanks to the beef broth, which took many hours to prepare.
Another favourite is the Cha Ca La Vong ($28). This grilled fish is marinated in a myriad of spices in a traditional Vietnamese method and served with fresh dill. You may detect a faint earthy taste, which the gravy fails to mask completely but this small blemish is worth overlooking. Also order the Duck Confit ($29), for it, having been simmered for hours in duck fat and crisped till the skin is a golden brown parchment, will be a delight to anyone's palate.
Le Tonkin also makes fantastic desserts. Sample the Kem Chay Dua ($16), the restaurant's signature dessert, a young coconut crème brûlée, served with Vietnamese's ginger candy, green tea and refreshing coconut juice. Be spellbound, literally, as the tender sweetness of the young coconut simply makes the crème brûlée soar. The Chocolate Mousse ($12) flavoured with cognac was rich, dense and delicious. It certainly makes for a good alternative choice to the brûlée.

The Service

The number of service staff at Le Tonkin is few but these men, decked in traditional black Vietnamese costumes, certainly know their jobs well. They may be a little slow when there is a big crowd but they know to reassure you that you are not neglected. Helpful and attentive, feel free to ask them for recommendations or help and you can hardly ever go wrong.
SD Food Advisor's Take on Le Tonkin
Le Tonkin looks chichi and it truly is. Meant for the posh and elegant, it promises a fine dining experience where you are advised to have the luxury of time to savour each dish to its fullest. You will get the quality it promises, but be prepared to pay for it.

Indochine restaurant
 
Set in a striking restored colonial, this place is a longtime tourist favorite with good Vietnamese cuisine tempered for foreign palates. Indochine fills with tour groups at lunchtime, which can be a bit much, bringing a rise in the noise level and a drop in service quality. The spring rolls are great, as are both the banana flower salad and the crispy fried prawn cakes with ginger. Ask about daily specials. With indoor and patio seating and traditional Vietnamese performances in the evening (call ahead for times), Indochine is well worth a visit for the beautiful setting alone. Take a cab -- it's hard to find.
     

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