Yesterday we ate lunch at Quan An Ngon" just near the Reunification Palace. This was recommended to us by our tour guide along with the restaurant next door, Bantua. This was the one most crowded...by Vietnamese...it also looked inviting with big windows, umbrellas, and lots of shade. We ate "in the back" on the second floor of an old colonial building looking through a window on the patio below. The service was fabulous...smiling and helpful. We had whole crab in tamarind sauce, a beef pho (soup), steamed rice, and fresh spring rolls with shrimp that we "wrapped" ourselves...good thing for those two cooking classes. Our waiter helped us with the crab (cracking it) and explaining which sauces we should be using for what foods. Done in a very helpful manner...no tsktsking...although he could have!
There were a few tourists in the restuarants but the vast majority were Vietnamese...who always look so happy and chatty when they eat (I know that sounds like a gross stereotype...but it has been our experience). Meals are simple, tasty and a time to get together with your family and friends to chat. The menu at Quan An Ngon was very large and from what we read, it has cuisine from a number of locales throughout Vietnam...it is translated into English. It is also interesting because there is a long row of cooking stations where different foods of different regions are being made fresh, right where you can stop and look. There is also a central kitchen somewhere. It was really fun! The restuarant is within walking distance of downtown hotels but there were cylcos and taxis right out front for those who need to get to that nap sooner rather than later. We walked back along Dong Quai one of the major shopping streets (silk, art, more silk, purses, crafts from the mountain highlands near Sapa).