My cheap, tasty and filling lunch set (Photo: Peter Sidell)

Hoang Ngan, Shibuya

Authentic Vietnamese food in the heart of Tokyo

My cheap, tasty and filling lunch set (Photo: Peter Sidell)
Peter Sidell   - 3 min read

Tokyo must be one of the best cities in the world to go for lunch. There's a dizzying array of restaurants to choose from, and the fierce competition keeps quality good and prices low. In Shibuya especially, there's a good range of places on the streets heading from the station towards Dogenzaka and Bunkamura: one of them is Hoang Ngan, just around the corner from Don Quixote, where you can enjoy authentic Vietnamese cuisine and hospitality.

First, the lunches: for ¥680 you have a choice of sets including a big bowl of pho (Vietnamese glass noodles in a thin, spicy soup), a carb-laden combo of pho and fried rice, and lemongrass stir-fry, all served with a spring roll, a salad and a small dessert. I opted for (deep breath) Com Dau Ran Sot Ca Chua, without having much idea what it would be, except for the picture and the kanji. It turned out to be a very tasty dish of tender ground pork wrapped in fried tofu, served in a tomato sauce that was spicy but not overpowering, and along with all the side dishes it was just the right amount, leaving me filled but not stuffed.

It's only a small place, but the staff have managed to create an atmosphere like that of a little restaurant in Hanoi – not a surprise, because that's where they're all from. The waitress was wearing a colorful Ao Dai, the traditional long Vietnamese dress, and it was fun to hear her chatting in Vietnamese with the kitchen staff while mildly cheesy Asian pop played in the background. The boxes of chopsticks on the table are of the distinctly Vietnamese design that I remember from a trip to Saigon, and sit next to big jars of chili sauce which you can use to add extra spice to your dishes if you need it.

If you want to add a drink to your lunch set, an extra ¥200 will get you a choice of juices and beverages, with more esoteric options such as guava, lychee and tamarind as well as the usual orange and grapefruit. On the dessert menu there are familiar staple puddings and ice creams, then also longans and grass jelly for a more south-east Asian flavor. The dinner menu seems pretty extensive, and features helpful pictures for people like me who don't read Vietnamese or kanji; however, there was some English on the drinks menu. As well as standard cocktails and good ol' Asahi, this features Vietnamese beers (Saigon and 333) and liquor (Nep Moi, Lua Moi), to wash down your dinner in authentic fashion.

Peter Sidell

Peter Sidell @peter.sidell

I came to Japan from Manchester, England in 2003, and have travelled a lot since then, around Japan and in Asia. When I'm not working, I write satire and perform stand-up comedy in and around Tokyo. Check YouTube for a taste.