Tonkin, a cosy Vietnamese restaurant tucked underneath The Amara Hotel down Tanjong Pagar’s Tras Street, one of three in Singapore, takes its name from the northern Vietnamese region known for its fertile rice-fields on the delta of the Red River. Fusing the old and the new, tradition with the contemporary, Tonkin takes ancient Vietnamese recipes and prepares typically light, healthy and flavoursome comfort foods from daily-sourced ingredients. Plus, not only is Tonkin your perfect local street food vendor, but its chic and plainspoken premises are also capable of hosting your next function or party.
With two siblings scattered around Singapore, Tonkin does indeed approach the ubiquity of the xichlo (cyclo or bicycle) in a city like Hanoi. But when this Tanjong Pagar Vietnamese street food restaurant says it’s inspired by xichlo it intends moreover to evoke the grace and rhythm of bicyclists in the Vietnamese metropolis – with the hectic foot-traffic down the stretch of Tras Street in front of The Amara Hotel bringing an endless stream of orders for their robust Vietnamese dishes it’s some small miracle that Tonkin’s kitchen crew can keep their heads in the midst of the maelstrom. But they do, dishing out banh mi like no one’s business alongside a full-spectrum menu of other Vietnamese culinary classics.
One way to get to grips with Tonkin raison de etre is to go for one of the ten set lunches, all with a homemade iced lemon tea, or one of the value set meals, served with Vietnamese drip filter coffee (which along with banh mi has to be one of the post-Indochina-era’s most enduring foodie icons). Otherwise, diners choosing from the a la carte menu are spoiled for choice, with noodle dishes covering all the classic regional variations in a list topped by another Vietnamese foodie favourite – pho – in seven styles. Tonkin’s hot pot dishes, drawing the dots between Chinese and Vietnamese culinary traditions, are sure to be a hit with the hot pot heads who trawl Singapore and Tanjong Pagar looking for their feasting fix, while the simple and delicious meat and seafood dishes find their match in a good number of vegetarian and tofu-based options. Remember, don’t just drop in to Tonkin, tap in by booking.