The House of Ho
1 Percy Street
Tel. 0207 323 9130
Food type: Vietnamese/ Pan Asian
Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road
Website: The House of Ho
For my stag do, my best man had the difficult task of arranging a suitable place for dinner. Most of my friends are aware that I love my food. His initial plans of going to Gaucho’s was (thankfully) vetoed by another fellow foodie friend of mine. Attempts to pick my brains for some ideas were not very fruitful as I basically was happy with anything as it was not Indian (spicy food with plenty of alcohol would be havoc for my tummy) and not French (thats my default cuisine of choice when I go out). I did suggest perhaps Vietnamese as I didn’t mind something cheap and cheerful like Mien Tay. With that in mind, we ended up going to the House of Ho.
Now I will be the firs to admit that I have not even heard about the House of Ho up until this point. However, given that the restaurant is situated near Charlotte Street where dining options are rife (Pied a Terre, the Ninth, Bubbledogs, Salt Yard etc.) I was pretty confident that this was going to be good. I mean with that level of competition around you, the restaurant is not going to get away serving mediocre food. It was not until I got home that I found out that heading up the kitchen is none other than Ian Pengelley, formerly of the trendy Gilgamesh.The House of Ho is located in a 4 storey townhouse. We were led up to the third floor where we had a private dining room to ourselves. The decor is very minimalistic, with bare wooden tables and simple green chairs. The whole ambience is very reminiscent of being in colonial Saigon. Although there was an a la carte menu available, given that we were dining in a group, my friends had organised a set menu.
We began with some nibbles of Asian crackers and spicy edamame with a glass of fizz. The crackers were fine but I really enjoyed the spicy edamame which were coated with a lovely chilli and garlic sauce. Unlike many Asian restaurants in England, the heat levels were pretty authentic – not the usual disappointing, dumbed down stuff that I usually come across.
For starters, we were given a couple of dishes to share. Crispy squid was well timed with tender squid coated in a nice crunchy batter. The squid was properly spicy with the addition of some bird’s eye chilli. Also who doesn’t like crispy squid? This was a crowd pleaser. Duck and watermelon salad seems to be the restaurant’s signature starter given the number of posts on twitter. Salty, crunchy duck made a nice counterpoint to the sweet, juicy watermelon. Also given that we were sharing starters, the cooling effect from the watermelon was a smart touch following the spicy squid. Next was some grilled chicken dumplings with the twist of some crispy nets on top. The dumplings had a nice moist filling and had a nice chewy skin which is found the best versions. The final starter were classical Vietnamese summer rolls with nice juicy prawns and a peanut dipping sauce.
Moving on to mains, lemongrass chicken with a sweet caramel glaze had a lovely balance of sweet, salty and umami. The chicken was crispy and fragrant with the addition of the lemongrass. Vietnamese wild salmon curry had tender chunks of salmon in a fragrant, aromatic curry. The salmon had been gently cooked and thus remained moist. However, I am not sure if a fragrant curry was the best platform to showcase wild salmon. Slow cooked pork belly with star anise had melting tender pork with a crispy skin. As you would expect with this dish in Asia, the pork comes with an egg. (My fiancee always jokes that everything in Asia comes with an egg.) The mains were served with both fried rice (called Ho Rice here) and plain rice as well as some stir-fried Asian greens which were well timed.
We ended on a creme brûlée. Although advertised as green tea flavoured, the creme brûlée tasted more of pandan. Desserts are generally not the forte of Asian kitchens and this dessert has not done much to change my mind otherwise. The creme brûlée had a grainy texture and if I were to hazard a guess, it was probably cooked at too high a temperature.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed our meal at the House of Ho. The savoury dishes were delicious with authentic complexity of flavours and level of spicing. This was Asian cooking at its honest best. Looking at their menu online, I am already tempted to return to try their short rib hot & cold pho.
Disclaimer: My friend who kindly arranged for us to dine here is related to the group owner of the restaurant. This has no influence in my opinion of my meal here. I did not have a look at the bill, since in this instance my friends took care of it.