Self-proclaimed ‘Vietnamese bistro’, Propaganda, was packed on a rainy Sunday night when we ventured out to try it. Overlooking the park beside the cathedral in District 1, the restaurant is a spacious room with high ceilings, and a pretty terrace at the front if you prefer to sit outside. The walls are plastered with brightly-coloured murals depicting various scenes of harmonious rural Vietnamese life. The decor and the upbeat music make for a fun, friendly and young environment. The punters were mostly foreigners, rather than locals, with the majority seeming to be trendy french expats.
The wine list was good, offering a range of wines and prices, including a few different rose wines to choose from. Propaganda also has an extensive cocktail list, but we stuck to wine, ordering a bottle of Sauvignon Plonk. Our helpful waitress suggested a few dishes to try and in we dived. We were brought some monkey nuts straight away – a touch we appreciated having had a few drinks on an empty stomach.
The menu has a large selection of fresh rolls to share as starters, and we were told these were something of a specialty dish. Coming in 10 bite size pieces the size of sushi rolls, we chose the chicken, avocado, brown rice roll with a spicy peanut dip. The texture was lovely due to the creamy avocado and the peanut dip was delicious, although it wasn’t spicy at all. My dining partner thought the flavour of the rolls was a little bland without the dip, and suggested that the brown rice might be accountable for this. I have a deep appreciation for the subtlety of avocados so they went down well with me.
Next we tried the BBQ pork with rice noodles, beansprouts and fried spring rolls. The dish is a warm(ish) noodle salad garnished with the BBQ pork and on a bed of spring rolls. Fish sauce came on the side to dress the noodles. This dish was fantastically fresh and light, as so much of the best Vietnamese food tends to be. The spring rolls at the bottom of the bowl were soft but still crispy – they added variety and substance to the dish.
Finally we tried the Vietnamese duck curry – we chose to have rice noodles on the side instead of bread. The curry was quite unlike most Indian-style curries – it was smooth, sweet and very mild. The dish consisted of a large duck leg and chunks of potato, covered in the curry sauce. We found having to tear the meat off the bone a little tiresome, but the duck itself was tender and tasty. On the side we were given chili salt which we were told was to dip pieces of duck into. The rice noodles made a surprisingly good accompaniment to the curry, soaking up the sauce better than expected.
We didn’t have desert, but the banana wrapped in crunchy sticky rice with coconut cream & crushed peanut looked rather dreamy. Instead we took the rest of our wine outside to the front terrace for people-watching.
For me, there wasn’t one item on the menu which didn’t sound appetizing, and my only regret was that we didn’t order more. Its a menu designed for sharing, with plenty of options but not an overwhelming number of dishes.
Propaganda serves up a large dollop of Saigon-cool alongside some pretty tasty food, and is the perfect place for a lively Friday night dinner with friends.
21 Han Thuyen. Q1,
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tel: 3822 9048