Tam Nguyen chicken restaurant is located on the way to the Golden Valley, starting to welcome guests at 10am and closes at 12pm. Guests who want to eat there must reserve 1 day in advance. After making a reservation by phone, the guests must transfer money to the owner to make a deposit. The owner of the restaurant, after receiving the deposit, will confirm the meal time with the guests and the guests must be on time. If the guests are late, then they are…not able to dine there.
Rumors about the most “choosy” restaurant in Dalat were transmitted by words of mouth. We were asked by two friends to try that restaurant. And just as rumored, the process went like this: reserving – transfering – scheduling a meeting with the owner – being on time – dining. The rumors just did not mention that the owner of the shop was very cute, she welcomed all the guests very carefully, and she was not uneasy, needless, or “choosy” as everyone was afraid.
It is just that they – the old couple living slowly in an age with their own rules. They do not consider people who come home as “gods” but just friends who need a stop to enjoy food. The shop has no staff, only the old couple will cook, carry foods, clean up so they cannot receive too many guests. At times they have staff, at times they don’t. The rice needs 8 hours including the time to soak the rice. The chicken must have two factors to be delicious: temperature and time. Whether to cook 1 chicken or 5 chickens, you still have to use exactly that amount of coal to ensure the temperature. Chicken grilling time is about 3 hours so that the bones are well cooked, the meat is not dry but the skin is crispy. The art of cooking lies in that rigor. The food that is taken such good care of should be enjoyed by the diners with the most delicate senses and at the most appropriate time when the meat is just cooked and enough crunchy. If guests come too early, the meat is not well cooked, then they have to wait a long time, but if they come too late, the owner continues to grill until the guests come, the chicken will be dry, or if the owner takes the chicken out waiting for guests to come to grill again, it is like eating leftovers.
We entered the house, greeted the couple owners, and chose a seat on the wooden floor. The décor was a mix between the West and the highlands, which is not completely typical. The smell from the kitchen corner made my stomach crying. I walked over to the smoke to watch him roast the meat. The chicken and pork were then fully browned, which I guessed were almost edible. The male restaurant owner looked somehow artistic. He was quiet, passionately … grilling meat, turning all over. Another group of guests just came in, ordered soft drinks, the female restaurant owner said, “Drink later, if you drink, you will be full and cannot eat.” Yes, another eating principle. The group of guests said “yes” clearly and arranged their belongings to sit down and wait. This group was going to take wedding photos so they had many belongings.
We also walked around for a while when the food was just cooked. The owner served the food, not forgetting to tell, “Please eat grilled pork with bamboo-tube rice first, use with this” (her hand pointed to a kind of dip looking like “cham cheo” dipping sauce of the Northwest region including minced forest vegetables but the dip was made with their own recipe). Eat half the pork and then eat chicken, because the chicken stays hot longer. EAT WITH YOUR HANDS! Remember? Eating with your hands will make this more delicious! Only use chopsticks to eat vegetable. Alright, let’s eat! We make this wine too, with separate wine for men and women. If you want more wine, call me. Wine is free. Got it?!”. They nodded their heads and said yes together..
This meal had too many rules. What a strange and just casual meal! We ate very well. After eating, my husband asked to go to the stage to sing for the couple owners. At that time, the old couple owners started … to “chill” (who made this awesome word) because the guests were almost gone. She played the drums, he played the guitar and sang. Although the music was not good, it was obvious that the two of them were very passionate about the music, so there was no shortage of basic instruments. We are currently doing the same job – cooking for foreigners – a job simply for pleasure. I suddenly thought about the future of the two of us when we were old. Maybe we would also be at home cooking, working a few hours a day, welcoming guests to eat and sing for fun, if we don’t feel like anyone… we will not welcome them. People said “this couple is very choosy”, but they didn’t know that we ignored those words and kept laughing and being happy together. The guests who came to our restaurant must have owned us some debts in previous life to sit and eat until the last minute and not get up and leave!