Bistro Nhà hai hành in Prague’s Smíchov is, for me, without much thought (so far) a somewhat hidden Vietnamese gastronomic gem. The bistro itself refers to itself as “punk” and is hinted at by the decor or tables covered with advertising flyers. But behind this playfulness is the great experience of head chef Tomáš Cibulka and his Vietnamese wife Phương Anh Trần. Tomáš Cibulka worked for six years at the restaurant La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise (which has one of the two Michelin ⭐ in the Czech Republic) – in fact, that’s where he met his wife. Together they went to Vietnam for a while and the local cuisine never let them go.
Nhà hai hành focuses on homemade Vietnamese cuisine, on dishes that Vietnamese people like to cook for themselves. Simple, but great-tasting recipes. The bistro offers a family/friendly dining style called “mâm”, which involves sharing dishes among guests at one table. Food with various side dishes, herbs, sauces or vegetables is served in many small bowls and each guest at the table takes what they currently crave. This form of dining is incredibly fun.
I recently visited the Nhà hai hành bistro with three of my good friends for a fish and seafood-focused hot pot. Hot pot (or soup-food or steamboat) is an Asian way of preparing food, where the soup is cooked directly on the dining table. The soup pot can be divided into two parts – in our case, one half was spicy soup and the other was its non-spicy version. Ingredients are added to the boiling soup according to the guest’s taste. Within a few minutes, they are cooked and can be easily removed from the soup with a ladle.
We chose a special version of the hot pot focused on fish and seafood. In many colorful bowls, we received pieces of fish, chopped squid, fish tofu, shrimp-filled dumplings, shrimp, crab sticks, mushrooms, several other types of fish and shrimp dumplings, slices of beef, clams, chopped fennel, perilla and banana flower salad and even dried instant noodles.
Practically all ingredients are served raw and you cook them yourself in the broth. Thin slices of beef are ready in a few seconds, while other ingredients take a few minutes. The guest receives several sauces to flavor the cooked food in addition. The broth becomes more and more flavored as all the ingredients are cooked in it. If you still have some space left at the end, you can eat the soup together with the instant noodles.
For a drink, you can have, for example, bottled Saigon beer, a small one-third costs 55 CZK (about 2 EUR). We also tasted a large thermos of non-traditional artichoke tea (trà atiso) for 50 CZK (about 2 EUR). I liked it a lot, but for my fellow diners, it was too unusual a taste. We also tried great lemonades from “ugly fruit” (nước sấu), lychee (nước vải), or mango (nước xoài). One glass of each lemonade costs 45 CZK (about 1,80 EUR).
The interior of the restaurant may look very unconventional in the photos, with walls covered with phone numbers and clusters of electrical cables hanging from the ceiling. However, inside the restaurant, there is a very pleasant atmosphere and everything fits together beautifully. The staff is incredibly kind and helpful. They willingly describe unfamiliar dishes and include recommended cooking times for the hot pot.
The hot pot must be ordered at least 48 hours in advance, and the fish version costs 590 CZK (about 25 EUR) per person. Bistro Nhà hai hành also offers a basic hot pot option for 390 CZK (about 16 EUR) and it is also possible to choose from dishes on the menu. This is, in my opinion, an incredible value for money considering what you get for the price.
If you want to experience an unconventional but very pleasant way of dining, enjoying authentic home-cooked Vietnamese food, then definitely go to Nhà hai hành. At the time of our Saturday evening visit, the restaurant was filled to capacity, so a reservation is more than advisable.
More information can be obtained by clicking on the map link: