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In our constant quest for great food around Vietnam, we tried Mango Rooms in Hoi An to see if it really was a cut above the rest as touted in reviews. Running between one of the main restaurant streets on one side and overlooking the river on the other, it’s in a prime location to take in the lights and lanterns of a Hoi An evening.

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Despite the restaurant website claims that chef Duc Tran personally cooks for each and every diner, the night we visited he was working at his other establishment in town (Mango Mango across the river), but whoever was in charge did an excellent job without him. Some really interesting dishes to try that take Vietnamese food to new levels in Hoi An, that fusion stuff, weaving in the chef-owner’s international experience. Beef three ways with vegies was terrific and inventive (eg, chilli stuffed with beef, a snake bean snail-curled with beef), and seared tuna with mango salsa light and delicious. The presentation lets the side down a bit, with fairly large chunks of tomato an watermelon placed on top with little style or finesse. The duck special, cooked with an intriguing chocolate, passionfruit and rosemary sauce, was excellent and perfectly cooked, but for the much higher than average price of around US$25  you’d expect it to be. Seems to be much better value to share a few starters than opt for the higher priced mains.

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Timing was an issue – as soon as we’d taken the last mouthful of starters, the plates were whisked away and replaced by the main. Savouring meals is not a concept encouraged. The restaurant was very quiet so obviously staff had lots of time to prepare, but that’s not a reason to rush meals. Surprisingly the restaurant set up and decor is pretty much the same as most other Hoi An establishments in the quaint and historic timber riverfront abodes, and it relies on its high standard of innovative food to justify its prices which are considerably higher than others about town. While the toilets were clean, they were pretty ordinary and not what I’d expect from a restaurant elsewhere described as ‘funky’. You’d think a quick makeover with some new tiles and porcelain would be in keeping with the fusion theme.

For me as a non-beer drinker, it was nice to be able to enjoy a half price cocktail from the extensive cocktail list, instead of two for one beers. The Jungle Jane is recommended.

Not the gastronomic feast we were expecting perhaps, but for those serious about Vietnamese food with a twist, bring out your wallet and visit. Still way cheaper than you’d get at home. Opt for a balcony seat upstairs to drink in the magic of the lights.

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