I visited Nguyen Loi Restaurant for the first time one day after office hours. I was one of the first dinner guests and plastic stools were arranged neatly inside the 20sqm (215 sq ft) house, with a Chinese verse painted on the old wall.
Later I was told that the restaurant is run by a Chinese family, a fact that most diners figure out easily by the distinctive Chinese-style cart, which is steaming all the time!
“It’s just how it is!” the female owner said with a smile when asked about her intense opening hours.
Her family opened the shop in 1962 and they have been keeping the stoves burning 24/7 ever since.
The restaurant serves Chinese noodle dishes, with fresh golden strips that are cooked to al dente perfection.
The best dish is the wontons, prepared with a strong peppery fragrance in the pork stuffing, and soft, but not too soft, doughy skin.
Many diners also opt for noodles with Chinese barbecued pork char siu, and there are other options with shrimp, pork ribs or just juicy bones.
A bowl of noodle soup with Chinese barbacued pork char siu at Nguyen Loi Restaurant in Saigon. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh
All bowls come with fresh vegetables, fried onions and ground pork, and cost around VND30,000 ($1.32).
The only problem with the restaurant, or possibly with its customers, is that there are no trash bins and the place can get messy at certain times of day with tissues littered all over the floor.
The restaurant is quite a distance from Saigon’s Chinatown. It stands on Xo Viet Nghe Tinh Street in Binh Thanh District, around 500 meters from Hang Xanh Circle.