E VILLAGE $$
I visited this super-chilled oasis – E Village – on a hot, dry Wednesday afternoon. The rest of An Hoi was pretty much dead – a far cry from what it turns into a few hours later – and we were the only people in the restaurant. Which was actually quite pleasant as we got to sit out on the terrace with the lovely Guest Relations Manager, Ha, and enjoy a laid-back, lingering lunch while she filled us in on the company’s vision.
E Village, together with Fullmoon Town and The Field, are owned by a company called EMIC (the owner of which is a Hoi An native). This eco-focused offering, open since September 2018, offers equally beautiful food, friendly staff and a relaxed garden setting – which is funny, seeing as it’s in the middle of town!
A Green Space
At E Village, it’s all about being green, in nature and appearance. Plants are everywhere, and the gorgeous bamboo “plant pots” dotted around, in which rice is grown and from which green blades burst forth, are a particularly lovely touch. The decor of the entire place is über-cool – and absolutely spotless! – with simple grey concrete walls, light bamboo and those lovely bursts of green to warm the place up a little. The effect is a combination of urban landscape and tranquil garden. And it works.
It reminded me a lot of some of my favourite places in Thailand – unsurprising, seeing as Ha spends a lot of time there. Listening to chilled-out Bonobo, enjoying the cool breeze from the fans and sipping on a margarita (which was delicious, as was Andy’s Death by Chocolate concoction)… yep, I could get used to this.
Cocktails and Starters
The charming F&B Service Manager, Hien, finished making us our delicious drinks (thanks, Hien!) before serving us our even more delicious food. Hats off to the chef, who’s only 28 and managed to prepare a feast for all the senses. According to Ha he’s very passionate, always creating new dishes… and his hard work certainly pays off.
Starters were beautifully presented, incredibly tasty and quite sizeable. The meatloaf calamari was winner for me and almost (almost!) looked too pretty to eat. (Those mini basket boats?) Gorgeous! Andy’s favourite was the cassava noodles with shrimp and pork. I’ve never had cassava noodles before and I hope they make it onto plenty of Hoi An menus. A great GF option, too.
For mains we had bún chả – one of our favourite Hanoi dishes and it didn’t disappoint. We loved the little extras served on the side and again, couldn’t fault the presentation. But my stand-out dish had to be the gà kho gừng – stewed chicken with ginger in a claypot. As an Irish native, I love a good stew… and this one would make every Irish mammy proud. The meat was succulent and tender, the sauce was sweet and rich and, stuffed as I was, I probably could’ve eaten another portion!
By the time it came to dessert – cassava cake with vanilla ice-cream – I was fit to burst. So this particular dish was a little heavy for my liking, a little too dense. The flavours were great though and Andy finished what I couldn’t, so it was clean plates all round.
The food in E Village is reason enough to visit. The lovely setting and friendly staff is another. But what makes it so special is the company’s ethos. Ha loves them so much that she’s tempted to get an EMIC tattoo – which says a lot! They obviously care about their staff, about their development. About their suppliers, and about maintaining Vietnamese tradition and culture to create sustainable business.
They’re also ethical about the materials they use – strictly no plastic, with menus made from recycled Kraft paper and a refill water station, too. And they’re ethical in their approach to tourism. Because unlike many other restaurants, tailors and tour companies here, they don’t work to a commission-for-recommendations policy. Which means they mightn’t get as many tourists… for now. But Hien said confidently: “If something is good, if you do well, the guests will come automatically.” And I really hope they will.
Unfortunately, lots of people might miss out on this place, located on An Hoi but to the right of the walking bridge. Most people stream down to the night market, or head left to the many restaurants and spas on that side. But walk a little further to the right and you won’t be disappointed.
This place should be supported. They’ve got the right eco-friendly ethos. They’ve got the right staff. And they’ve certainly got the right food.
Photos: Andy Barker