You might not fancy donning emperor’s robes for a cheesy portrait in the Imperial City, but most visitors to Hue are tempted by the idea of Imperial Cuisine, in which several courses (often seven or more) are brought to the table looking like works of art. This gastronomic extravagance doesn’t come cheap, though, with some places charging in excess of US$50 a head.
For much cheaper prices, you can taste a few local specialities that might just raise your eyebrows with delight. Look out for banh khoai, a crispy pancake stuffed with shrimp, pork and beansprouts, and bun bo hue, a spicy noodle soup with slices of beef. Both are sold at street stalls and restaurants around town.
Recommended Hue Restaurants
La Carambole: Run by an enthusiastic Frenchman, this attractive and welcoming place is the ideal setting to try some down-home cooking. They produce some excellent comfort food, such as burgers and pizzas, but take a tip and go for one of the set menus (6-10); you won’t be disappointed.
Lac Thien: A wonderfully friendly place run by a deaf-mute family, serving up all the common Hue dishes that are both tasty and cheap. As it’s on the north side of the river, near the Citadel, it makes a good place for lunch when exploring the Imperial City.
Tinh Gia Vien: A great place for the indulgence of Imperial cuisine. Enjoy the ambience of a garden villa as you work your way through 11 courses of beautifully-presented food. Set menus US$15-$25.
Mandarin Café: A legendary travellers’ café run by an amiable and knowledgeable photographer whose work is on display on the café walls, and for sale as well. A wide range of Vietnamese and Western dishes are served up in a clean, simple setting at rock-bottom prices.
Omar Khayyam’s: In the event you feel like a change from Vietnamese cuisine, consider this cozy place that serves up delicious Indian dishes at very reasonable prices, as well as some Italian and Vietnamese. There’s a second branch at 22 Pham Ngu Lao.
Hue Bars and Nightlife
Why Not? Bar: Why not indeed? If you’ve got a few hours to spare, you could do worse than check out this open-air pub that serves good burgers and hotdogs as well as Vietnamese staples, plus there’s a long list of cocktails. It gets going after dark when the music takes off.