ThirtySeven Woodfired Grill is temporarily closed. It has been replaced by a new concept, ‘Urban Fresh’, at the same location.
I’ve been wanting to try this newish kid on Hoi An’s cutting block for some time. Cycling past its lamplit allure and catching the incomparable smell of grilled steak and garlic, it’s any wonder I stayed on my bike!
Luckily, I got to enjoy a meal at ThirtySeven Woodfired Grill and Bar before causing an accident. Well, it wasn’t so much a meal as a dining experience, or what General Manager Ben Attwater described as ‘a journey’.
Cocktails: The Journey Begins
The journey began with cocktails on ThirtySeven Woodfired Grill’s street-facing terrace. I opted for ‘vacation bliss’ – a fiery combo of lemongrass, vodka, chili and watermelon, while my partner chose ‘tropical darkness’ – a blend of Nicaraguan rum, cardamom, pineapple and activated charcoal. The bartender, Manuel, assured us that charcoal is good for teeth-whitening and digestion. Finally, a guilt-free cocktail! Both were delicious, although mine was quite complicated to drink – at one point I had a lemongrass stalk up my nose and a wedge of watermelon jabbing my eye. Classy.
Mechanics aside, ThirtySeven Woodfired Grill and Bar offers a very impressive drink selection, with enough fine gins, whiskeys, and rums to make you almost forget about the food. Beer and wine drinkers won’t be disappointed either – the menu is more like a novella.
Once we’d finished on the terrace (and feeling generally smug as passersby looked longingly at our cocktails) we moved into the depths of the restaurant. It’s a pretty eclectic space. The downstairs bar feels like a speakeasy. The garden area, complete with woodfired stove, feels like an Aztec oasis. While the back patio looks out over the Thu Bon River and a few extra tables with a single overhead bulb – all very Film Noir. Finally, the whiskey and cigar room – yep, you heard me – is both gentlemen’s club and wild west saloon at once.
All of these ‘venues’ are very different in style but somehow it works. The result is intimate and special, sending you into a dreamlike state… although maybe that was just the cocktails!
The Main Attraction – The Food
And what of the food? Well, from the setting and the smells, we assumed it would be pretty damn good. And we weren’t disappointed.
Appetizers included: anchovy flatbread with ricotta, tiradito (a Hoi An twist on a Peruvian favorite) and locally-sourced asparagus with a creamy combination of egg, smoked butter and parmesan. All were winners but since the asparagus was a little rich for my taste, I dug into more of the zingy tiradito instead. For someone who normally gags at sashimi, this was a revelation. (Also great if you have a stuffy nose… hello, chili!)
For our mains, we enjoyed a surf ‘n’ turf – with the grilled octopus and red snapper making serious waves and the ‘butcher’s cut’ steak – a leaner cut from the diaphragm – leading to more than one exclamation of ‘holy cow!’
The meat was so tender it almost made me buy it a Valentine’s card but for me, the stand-out items were the smoky eggplant and the Ly Son garlic cream, both of which were served with the snapper. I almost didn’t want to brush my teeth ever again, just so I could continue tasting them.
Coconut panna cotta with passion fruit jelly and rich chocolate mousse with praline were the perfect combination, and the tastiest of endings to our culinary journey. We left very full, very happy and very much still under ThirtySeven’s spell.
Go there, and get entranced for yourself.