Her restaurant began as a suggestion from a friend who felt that she could bring something special to the industry, and became a reality five months ago. It is tucked away in a small alley, and has gained popularity primarily through word-of-mouth recommendations. The ambiance is understated, with lots of beige and pictures of the signature dishes proudly displayed on the walls standing in for art. There are pops of colour lurking throughout the restaurant, primarily from Indonesian memorabilia. But, if Van Anh is around, the decorations tend to fade into the background.
Music, Food and Happy Customers
The moment customers enter, she not only personally greets them but also, without fail, strikes up a conversation. It never feels forced when Van Anh is talking — her empathy envelops everything she says. One is left not only feeling like a guest in her home but also a valued friend.
She considers her staff to be family and introduces her Indonesian chef with obviously sincere praise. Van Anh offers cooking and music lessons to interested patrons, making a point to provide whatever people want or need, even going so far as to expand her menu to double its former size — so as to better accommodate the tastes of her loyal, but homesick, clientele.
House of Salvation has held numerous events where her own band, Huong Sen — quite well-known in their own right — has played well into the night. Their music lifts the dining experience to a much more visceral place where Van Anh's three great passions — music, food, and making people happy — play off each other.
This thoughtfulness is also reflected in the food, which is carefully crafted with a flourish of downhome flavour, and elevated by a true understanding and appreciation of the ingredients. House of Salvation’s crisp and creamy perkedels — five delicious mashed potato fritters, accented with herbs and sour cream (VND40,000) — and ayam bakar — sweet and savoury grilled chicken with rice, drizzled with a soy sauce reduction (VND70,000) — should be sampled by visitors, expats and locals alike. — Jacklynn Blanchard