Gone are the days when Vietnamese restaurants are confined to the cliché: rattan chairs, a few obligatory bamboo plants for decoration, and walls done up in varying shades of green. The latest Vietnamese restaurant to open in town, An Nam is high on both flavour and aesthetics.
Taking inspiration from Vietnam’s colonial past, multi-award-winning architect and designer Steve Leung has conceived a space that tastefully blends Indochina influences and contemporary design.
Taking over Lawry’s old location at Lee Gardens, the 362sqm restaurant seats 139 people and is done up in eye-catching turquoise.
No doubt the crowning jewel of the design, a gigantic wall of dark brown panels and grilles at the reception, which have been meticulously culled from residences in Vietnam, pays homage to traditional Vietnamese craftsmanship.
An elongated hallway paved with traditional patterned ceramic tiles smartly serves as a divider between a banquette seating area and two VIP rooms.
In the former, banquette seating upholstered in lush velvet provides for an intimate dining experience. Meanwhile, each of the VIP rooms features a generously sized wooden dining table, grey fabric dining chairs and a Vietnamese ceiling fan – all of which contribute to a sensually-rich dining ambience.
Continuing along the hallway, patrons soon arrive at the main dining area, where the atmosphere is decidedly more casual. The high ceiling, decorated with silk lantern pendant lamps, imbues the restaurant with a light and airy atmosphere. At the same time, French louvers, intricate window grilles and antique mirrors evoke the grandeur of Indochina architecture.
With Steve Leung, one can expect a dedication to detail. Traditional Hue-style dishes including crispy-fried spring rolls – or ‘cha gio
’ as the locals call it – perfectly sauteed tiger prawns and sizzling lemon-flavoured clams are served in handmade ceramic tableware. The artistically inclined can also enjoy the paintings on display; these are sourced from prominent Vietnamese artists such as Hanoi-based Bui Huu Hung.
The colonial-style architectural influences continue in the balcony, where silk lantern pendants, dark rattan dining tables, and aqua blue-cushioned rattan chairs set the tone for a romantic post-dinner tipple, or two, if you so desire.
Steve Leung / Steve Leung Designers