Our dining philosophy at Le Domaine is simple: – We support Tam Hai—our neighbourhood —in every way possible, as much as possible. We work with local fishermen, local markets and local cooks. Our menus change every day to reflect what’s fresh and we want you to eat out!
Above all else, Tam Hai is most famous for its seafood. Visitors from neighbouring provinces flood the island on weekend day trips to dine on lobster, oysters, green-lipped mussels, clams, fish, crab and shrimp sold at prices far cheaper than on the mainland.
The most popular restaurants line the beaches at the far end of the island a 4km cycle ride from the resort. Inland and on the riverfront, approximately a kilometre from the resort are numerous one-dish restaurants, hotpot shops and the ever-changing list of temporary food stalls and barbecues that set up during meal times around the market and central (the islands only crossroad).
Away from seafood, popular island dishes include mi quang (a shrimp and pork noodle dish), banh mi, bun bo, com ga (chicken rice), a multitude of sweet and savoury chao (rice soup), che, bun thit nuong (pork skewers with noodles and herby salad), com binh dan (workers lunch) – there are no western restaurants or any bars.
Cho Tam Hai is located 3kms from the resort on the riverfront and runs from 7-9am every day except Sundays when most of the islanders take the day off. This is where all the big deepsea fishing vessels park up to unload – the seafood aisles of the market are incredible. Other worthy stalls are the breakfast stalls and those specialising in dried goods, condiments and pickles. A lot of the produce (fish sauce, chilli jam, pickles, dried squid, fish and shrimps and coconut products) are homemade here on the island.
Sadly for fresh produce, the increasing sea and river water levels have left the islands only water source salinated, this has progressed to levels where produce farming is now impossible on the island and means that all fruit, vegetables and most of the herbs sold are imported from the mainland, as are most of the sellers – due to this the market timetable has swung towards a later start and a lot of island jobs have been lost.
As the islands power supply is more often off than on, the islanders’ shop for each meal. To cater for this there is a small market (7 am – 11 am & 2 pm – 4 pm) that sets-up at the crossroads of the island.
For seafood, the 2 pm slot is the most rewarding as the seafood available for the most part is sourced directly from the smaller family-owned fishing boats. We prefer to do our fruit and veg shop here as the produce sellers are from the island. This means that even though they source their produce from the mainland, the money you spend goes to the island.
At the resort, we act on all the islands complications by getting behind sustainable farming practices and eating locally-caught, farmed and produced foods – as much as possible we encourage our guests to go outside of the resort and support the amazing family-run restaurants. This small act helps bring money to the island and a lot of pride to the people that live here (and us)!
Faced with all the challenges (and rewards) of reducing our produce footprint and wastage, we keep our resort menu small and beautiful. We prefer (rather than facing our guests with a 58-page menu) to invest time personally with you prior to check-in (or during) to discuss individual dietary requirements and preferences. From this, we shop and put together a daily changing specials board or cook off-menu if there is something you particularly want to try, or crave for.
Bringing Food & Drink to The Island
For guests, we actively encourage you not to bring food and drink from the mainland to the island. This is not so we can profit from our guests – our reasoning is to reduce unrecyclable packaging from the islands trash mountain and to encourage you to shop in the village instead. For those that do respect our demands, we’re happy to provide a barbecue and set up a dining area outside your villa or on the beach. For a small fee, our cooks will prepare and marinade or even cook your meal to save you the bother.
Not quite so local: – So that our guests can feel confident with the food produced in our kitchen we have formally trained our island cooks a small menu of familiar western dishes, and about food allergies and cross-contamination. We also supply our guests with flashcards written in Vietnamese to help when dining outside of the resort (for the more complicated ones we provide our guests with a resort phone so that we can speak directly to the restaurant owner and make things a little less stressful).
Water & Ice
For now, the islands only water source is from groundwater (wells). This water goes through all the normal cleansing processes that all tap water in Vietnam is treated, which means it’s safe to shower in and to brush your teeth with, but not to drink unless it is boiled first.
Tam Hai has the added bonus of groundwater salt intrusion, and while we all wait for a mainland water connection a big investment into the machinery to eliminate that does not make sense. This means the islands tap water is salty (you don’t want to use it to make coffee!). It also means that if it is used it to wash produce, make ice (at the resort we do onsite with purified and filtered water) or served it up in a glass you would know about it.
Water & Ice at the Resort
To reduce plastic waste (and prevent our guests from becoming dehydrated) we provide refillable water bottles, a 20-litre bottle of drinking water in each villa, ice and huge jugs of iced water and a water station at the bar as a complimentary service.