Gonta – an inexpensive Japanese yakitori bar

Japanese food can be an expensive taste in Vietnam, so it’s a relief to find restaurants that are more affordable and Gonta ranks favourably in this regard, but is the style matched by the substance ?

At between 10,000 and 22,000 per skewer for yakitori, Gonta falls into the “lunch with friends” price bracket and with an easy to find location on Le Lai street in District 1 it is an ideal meeting place for a bite among workmates although you might be disappointed to find that lunch consists of Vietnamese dishes. During the evening you can enjoy the yakitori speciality although the sushi is a little more expensive with a small dish of California rolls weighs in at a hefty 88,000 VND.

Where Gonta really comes into its own is in terms of atmosphere. The bar-style dining in front of the chefs is spacious with a nice contrasting cream and black decor. Upstairs is the expected party room for larger groups with small tables and zashiki for seating, and on the first floor is an intimate and warm dining experience with subdued lighting and long bamboo stems along the walls arching across the ceiling and creating an atmosphere inspired by nature. Everything at Gonta is tasteful and well crafted from the furnishings down to the hashi boxes and the style is consistent throughout. I was especially pleased to hear familiar Japanese pop music playing at just the right volume to be enjoyed without being intrustive.

The yakitori selection is acceptable and consists mostly of chicken skewers although the most delicious and attractive item on the menu is surely the grilled asparagus wrapped in bacon. For only 10,000 VND a skewer you can nibble on eggplant or grilled garlic which is moist and well cooked in addition to a few other vegetarian items. These are all complimented by Gonta’s special soy sauce recipe which has been handed down for over 30 years.

It was pleasing to see that Sapporo draft was only 25,000 although a coke weighs in at 38,000 making Gonta’s pricing seem a little imbalanced. The yakitori dining however is casual and fun and Gonta’s set platter represents excellent value with 12 skewers of meat for only 150,000 VND.

Overall, Gonta is a great lunch or dinner destination in the middle of busy Ben Thanh ward and if you go in looking forward to the casual but refined atmosphere and good value as the stand-out items, you won’t be disappointed.

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