Coming from the UK, I realize we are not renowned for our cuisine.
However, what we do have, notably in London and other major cities, is a diverse and eclectic mix of other countries’ cuisines, especially Asian food. It is one of the few things I have missed about the island I called home.
Indian, Thai, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese – all are now popular everyday dishes for Brits. In Medellín, not so much.
You have some options here, such as Naan, Curry and the Royal Thai, (can you guess the type of cuisine served at each?). All are decent, however, they are all in Poblado and can quickly consume a weekly peso-based budget.
So when a friend had heard about a new Vietnamese place called Restaurante Lemoncillo and sent me a link to their Facebook page, I was excited.
Lemoncillo sits on the corner of one of the main roads heading up to Parque Envigado.
The small entrance, Vietnamese hat on the sign, and an interior with only five tables make it distinctive, but blink, and you would miss it.
The interior design is simple but classy. Photos of Vietnam adorn one of the walls and stenciled Vietnamese words with corresponding Spanish translation spread out across the other.
An open kitchen allows guests to keep an eye on the chefs at work.
The menu and this is a small detail but, in my opinion, illustrative of a place well done, has a blurb about Southeast Asian food and the differences between them. The menu even feels good to hold.
Lemoncillo does not have a huge variety of dishes, but quantity is often overrated.
If you are feeling like a three-course affair, you have a couple of starters to choose from, including a chicken coconut curry soup for 9,500 pesos ($3.80).
There are half a dozen or so mains. They include a pork rib dish with jasmine rice for 20,500 pesos ($8.20) and beef in a lemongrass sauce for 16,500 pesos ($6.60).
The chef’s special recommendation (please note it needs to be ordered the day before – it is special) is caramelized pork belly bathed in ginger and lemongrass, served with coriander, Chinese cabbage and jasmine rice for 28,500 pesos ($11.40).
Accompaniments include a fried tofu dish for 8,500 pesos ($3.40), jasmine rice for 3,500 pesos ($1.40) and salted vegetables of the day for 6,900 pesos ($2.75).
Lemoncillo offers a set lunch menu for 12,500 pesos ($5) between 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday, which I will be sure to try in the future.
I opted for the ginger chicken with coriander and jasmine rice for 17,900 pesos ($7.15), which turned out to be an excellent choice.
Fresh and light, with well-cooked meat and sumptuous flavors in the sauce. It avoided the heavy salting that some Asian dishes are victims of, and the release of the lemongrass and ginger flavors hit the spot.
The rice was light with the just the right hint of jasmine, and the small salad was crunchy yet flavorsome. I was a jubilant soul.
For my drink, I ordered a lemoncillada 3,700 pesos ($1.45), a lemongrass lemonade with ginger and lime. Refreshing and tasty.
We didn’t get a chance try the dessert, but there was a torta majaron with coconut sauce available for 6,000 pesos ($2.40).
The place and the food did not disappoint. It did what it did well. The chef is originally from Laos, where he was born to Vietnamese parents. He’s also lived in Saigon and Germany, and he obviously knows his stuff.
Word is already getting out to the Colombian foodies and expat community that there is tasty Vietnamese food to be found in Envigado (I am aware that this article might help!). After only three months, Lemoncillo is already seeing wait times for tables on the weekends.
I am sure I will see a few of you there soon, just please don’t take all the tables.
Dave here. I ate at Lemoncillo shortly after Nick. I opted for a classic pho soup (pictured atop this story) for 16,500 pesos ($6.40). My soup was served with a side of lime, crushed peanuts, and Hoisin sauce, all of which I added. This was in addition to the standard soy sauce, fish sauce and a moderately spicy chile sauce that’s available. It was full of flavor, and the portion size was enormous. Somehow, I also managed to leave room for dessert.