Om Vegetarian Café and Restaurant can be found almost halfway between the British International School and Villa Song on Nguyen Van Huong Street in Thao Dien. Look for a brown timber facade with the word Om written in yellow cursive script on it. Above the restaurant is a yoga studio.
If it’s Good Enough for Monks...
The menu at Om is extensive with almost 100 items to choose from ranging in price from VND65,000 for vegetarian shredded pork skin spring rolls to the Om special hotpot (VND219,000) that’s large enough for four people.
Even if you’re not vegetarian or vegan, there’s bound to be something for everybody to try. The inspiration for the menu simply comes from the owner’s desire to offer healthy food but at the same time meet the dietary requirements of his religious faith. Buddhist monks from far and wide dine here at the time of the full moon each month.
There are Vietnamese dishes plus a few Western options, like the mushroom pizza with tomato, oregano, basil and cheese (VND125,000). It has a crunchy homemade base, and while it’s not going to take over the mantle as the best pizza in town, it’s tasty and covered in cheese.
For anyone who loves tofu, they do it well here. The deep-fried tofu and vegan dried shredded pork (VND70,000) is literally a cracker. Eight bite-sized medallion-shaped tofu pieces about an inch thick come out on their own individual rice cracker. They are topped with a pinch of chilli and some chopped shallots that ensure each mouthful goes down with a zing.
A nice palate cleanser on the side to share is the spinach salad with tien vua (VND90,000), a typical Vietnamese-style salad, bright, colourful and fresh with carrots, onions, mint, tofu and peanuts and the obligatory rice crackers to eat it with.
If you’re after something a bit more decadent, Om has a Japanese roasted pumpkin soup (VND85,000) with onions, celery, basil, cream and cheese. It’s served in a novel and eye-catching way, inside the pumpkin from where it came. If you’re watching your waistline, it might be best to give this one a miss, but boy is it comforting.
The Tin Bird
One of the more unusual looking offerings for a vegetarian restaurant is the foil-baked tofu with mushrooms (VND140,000). While it’s a very tasty dish loaded with a variety of mushrooms, carrots, vegan ham and that delicious tofu of Om’s, it’s served on a sizzling hot stone in tin foil sculpted in the form of a chicken — something of a conversation starter over dinner in this Year of the Rooster.
If it’s a group you’re with, Om has a selection of hotpots to share. The Om special hotpot (VND219,000) is made for it. There are countless varieties and tastes as good as it gets.
There are plenty of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks on the menu, including some detox options in case you’ve over-indulged the night before. The lemon, lemongrass and rosemary juice (VND65,000) is said to “relax the nervous system.” It’s definitely refreshing, surprisingly tart, and the rosemary is a nice touch. The blueberry, raspberry and green apple juice (VND90,000) promises to “detoxify and cleanse the body.” Judging by its refreshing taste and noticeable lack of sugar, its claim is probably spot-on.
If it’s for a boisterous lunch with friends while escaping the heat of the day, or for a cosy dinner for two before you hit the town, Om is an affordable and tasty alternative to many of the establishments in the area.
Om Vegetarian Cafe and Restaurant is located at 215 B2 Nguyen Van Huong, Thao Dien, Q2, HCMC. For more information, go to facebook.com/amthuchayom
Photos by Mike Palumbo