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Best Luxury & Gastronomic Restaurants
in Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon 2023


LA VILLA - THIERRY MOUNON (*****L): For several years, this remarkable establishment has held the esteemed title of the finest French restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, as voted by Tripadvisor. Such an accolade is no small feat in a city renowned for its culinary prowess, boasting an best gastronomic gastro gourmet restaurants in saigon la villa thierry mounon michelin guide red guideabundance of exquisite dining options. This recognition is further solidified by its inclusion in the prestigious 2023 edition of the Michelin Red Guide for Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh City—an honor that, by all indications, could well have earned it at least one coveted Michelin star. Nestled within the upscale enclave of District 2, this opulent pool villa not only offers a gastronomic haven but also obviates the need for a transcontinental journey to Paris. Its strategic location, a mere 15-minute taxi ride away from the tourist hub of District 1, has the remarkable ability to transport one's senses to the very heart of France.

Guided by his international experience garnered across distinguished five-star establishments spanning from Avignon to Bora Bora, and later from Mui Ne to Saigon, Thierry Mounon could have chosen the path of those overtly cerebral chefs—abundant in numbers—whose culinary endeavors seek fusion or neo-French innovations, as witnessed in the chic gastronomic scenes of New York, Barcelona, London, and Sydney. However, with a blend of modesty and ingenuity, he has elected to champion tradition, allowing the inherent excellence of his ingredients to articulate his narrative. In this, he emerges as a distinguished ambassador of "French Cuisine Bourgeoise" within the vibrant tapestry of Saigon's culinary landscape. Notably, during our recent sojourn in July 2023, it became apparent that he masterfully marries this devotion to tradition with judicious touches of refined sophistication—a trait that undoubtedly adds a captivating dimension to the dining experience.

The classic and romantic dining room, adorned with rich drapes, opulent furnishings, and boasting some of the most exquisite cutlery in the city, serves as the setting for an array of delectable specialties. These culinary delights are available both à la carte and as part of the incredibly affordable lunch menu, "De La Villa" (priced at USD 63), or the "Discovery" menu (valued at USD 108). These offerings extend a cordial invitation to patrons to embark on a gastronomic journey that transcends geographical boundaries and traverses oceans and mountains, all within the embrace of this resplendent "bourgeoise" establishment—an embodiment of delightfully vintage charm. Resonant echoes of similar treasures are still found in the quaint enclaves of Caen, Bourges, Avignon, Saint-Malo—slumbering towns within the embrace of our beloved French provinces, where the art of dining luxuriously finds its place within the cultural fabric.

While Saigon may boast a plethora of upscale dining establishments, none can parallel the genuine authenticity that La Villa exudes. The enchanting impression left upon patrons is a result untainted by artifice or promotional stratagem; it emerges purely from the unassuming disposition of Chef Thierry, who has seamlessly shed the mantle of a mere chef to embrace that of a gracious host. Assisting him in this charming endeavor is Tina, his delightful wife, who gracefully dons the role of an attentive "Maîtresse de Maison," ably supported by a team of anticipatory staff—the most eager in the city. Remarkably, the majority of the 22 members who constitute the kitchen and dining room contingent have remained steadfastly dedicated to La Villa since its inception in 2011—an emblem of the deep-seated loyalty and devotion the establishment inspires.!

Mounon's cuisine is generous, mixing skill and heart, and making an impression from the very beginning of the dinner which started, of course, with a glass of refreshing “Champagne Louis Roederer, Rosé, 2015”, presented in style with refined canapés. Produced between Hautvillers and Damery, French villages lined with some of the most prestigious Champagne vineyards, intense and fresh, this vintage rosé exudes small, acidic and finely crunchy red fruits. It came with an extensive set of light and elegant “amuse-bouche” (a big WOW to the “Crab Samosa” and “Andouilettes Pie”), and prepared our palate for the best yet to come.

The sea is aristocratically represented in the permanently updated "Seasonal Chef Menu" (USD 197 / + USD 108 for a clever wine pairing), served for the whole table only, featuring most of the five-star dishes enjoyed during our lavish dinner (this is the reason why we didn't mention the price for each): it commemorates the maturity of Mounon's cuisine after almost a decade at La Villa. It also pairs the elevated demand from the part of the local gourmets: lots of them are Vietnamese, with a mix of gourmand Westerners based in Vietnam, or visiting Saigon.

Lucullan starters like “Caviar Kristal & Tourteau Crab Surprise”, “Hokkaido Scallop & Oscietre Caviar Warm Sashimi”, or “Carabiñeros Prawns”, with “Angel Hair Salad” topped with caviar, exquisitely fishy, all rich in iodine and rare fragrances from the Oceans, should wake up the sleepiest Michelin Red Guide inspector… La Villa is the best embassy in the Far East for Kaviari Paris. Thierry Mounon treats the precious grey eggs as a gentleman treats a real lady. Fishy also: “Fresh Oyster by David Hervé” (served by one piece) made us feel like sitting at the terrace of Cyro’s in Deauville. Nothing at La Villa reminds us of Paris, where cuisine goes so arrogantly hipster. Alfred Hitchcock, legendary film director and gourmet, always regarded provincial French restaurants as the best: here we are at La Villa… Those starters can be paired with concentrated and very fruity “Pouilly-Fumé, En Travertin, Henri Bourgeois, 2021”, or even with the light and perfumed “Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Couvent des Jacobins, Louis Jadot, 2021” which was ad hoc with the oyster.

Back to Champagne, rosé or not, with the freshly imported “Raviole of French Blue Lobster from Brittany”: exquisitely, carefully, lovingly roasted by Thierry with olive oil, orange, and anis butter. We like lobster with aniseed or a pinch of vanilla. Or simply BBQ with rosemary and its Secret Garden Sauce. That’s one of the chef’s signature dishes, together with the “Line-caught Sea Bass from Oleron, France”, which we had with clams, spinach, and a tasty Bouillabaisse. This is a recipe by Mounon's grandmother, transmitted from generation to generation in the family. Though we rather use sorrel with fish, the match with spinach was ad hoc. It was accompanied that time by Artichokes Barigoule and Saffron Beurre Blanc (ideally paired with white “Bourgogne Le Renard, Chardonnay, 2021, still young with a crisp”).

The chef updates his cuisine very often, and good surprises are always expected from him. There is no routine at La Villa, where the cuisine isn't industry but a passion. Noticeable updates on the menu featured “Steamed Patagonian Toothfish, Verbena and Saffron Beurre Blanc”, melting in the mouth. “Tuna Tartar with Wasabi Ice Cream”: a refreshing match. Not to forget “Bellota, 36 months”, a treasure from Spain coming from pigs that have been fed with acorns (bellota in Spanish) and pasture until they reach 50 kilos weight. This is the highest quality ham, extremely popular in Asia, elegantly sliced by our table. Please Michelin: come back, and see. La Villa not only specialized in (excellent) Foie Gras...

Unexpected in Asia, yet still a surviving tradition in France on a multi-dishes banquet, we got an “Interlude”: refreshing “Trou Normand” (Sorbet Melon, served with a generous shot of artisanal Saké “Katsuyama, Ken” ), timely set to stabilize both our palate and stomach in the middle of the dinner.

The grill at La Villa serves the best meats in town (beating the popular -and extravagantly pricy- El Gaucho), astonishingly not imported from France. The reason is simple: Asian gourmets prefer corn-fed, sweeter meat from Australia, New Zealand, or the USA, while we French prefer Charolais. Nevertheless, the super tender and juicy “Wagyu Rib-Eye Beef from Victoria Highlands”, carefully cut at our table by the elegant lady Maitre d', came medium rare in our plate, accompanied with al dente Riso: this regional form of Risotto, confectioned with small pasta easily confused with rice, is more refined than Risotto indeed. The pasta absorbed the fragrance, and came with a perfect texture. This is a refined dish, moreover when it has been mixed with morelle and duck foie gras...not to forget raisins marinated in Armagnac. This could be a separate dish, as it is worth by itself as one of the highlights of our dinner. Paired with an exceptional Bordeaux “Château Malmaison, Moulis en Médoc, Baronne Nadine de Rothschild, 2014”. Baronne Nadine brings her name, after the late Baronne Philippine, to one of the French gourmets’ favorite wines. This meet experience was so reminiscent of the rich Sunday lunch best cuts from the butcher, cooked by our mother after the mass. Traveling back in time is one more bonus at La Villa.

Not to forget the aromatic, super juicy “Roasted French Pigeon d’Anjou, Green Peas, Jus Corsé”, (when Mounon shows that he is a real sauce master), and enhanced by Winter Black Truffles. Ideally paired with “Côtes du Rhône, E. Guigal, 2021”, like in a French bistro, or with “Cairanne, Le Pavillon des Courtisanes, Jean-Luc Colombo, 2020”: a clever suggestion from the expert sommelier, this is also a wine from the Vallée du Rhône, apparent to Côtes du Rhône (some Cairanne bottles bear this label), but slightly fruitier. More modern, and appealing.

We have been presented with a nice selection of the best French farm cheese (selected and refined by “Les Frères Marchands), traditionally by the trolley. We could enjoy whatever we liked in gourmet potions: Livarot, Camembert… Or a rare “Fourme d’Ambert Espuma”, with one glass of fresh and gourmand red “Puech-Haut Argali”, produced in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in France, by Château Puech-Haut, and presented in its eye-catching collector dark bottle decorated with two colorful ram’s heads (a reference to Rothschild wines?). It came, with the best bread in Saigon. We ate so much of it during our dinner. Olive bread and puffed “Duck Liver Petit Pain” beat Lasserre and La Tour d'Argent in Paris!

Our banquet ended with a yummy “Chocolate Soufflé Valrhona 70 % Grand Cru”, and a glass of “Tany Port, Quinta do Noval” which also nicely paired the “Valhrona Magnum with Thyme Tea”, first-class ice cream selected by our companion (ways better than the “Magnum” purchased in the supermarket, of course!). We didn't mention the price of the wine in our review, as we recommend the wine pairing option, letting the very professional sommelier guide you without any surprise over the bill. It is globally good value for the money. One glass of Champagne, for instance, costs USD 19; which is reasonable in Saigon.

The best staff in town, mainly feminine and most charming, pampered us between each dish, inquiring about our opinion on the cuisine and wines. The restaurant was full, like always, but Tina and her team didn’t seem much impressed, always ready to give ad hoc suggestions with that authentic kindness characteristic of La Villa. Few restaurants in France could employ so many staff nowadays, and this is sometimes a little painful to see that it takes a ten hours flight to find in Saigon what you hardly find nowadays in Paris for a much higher bill.

Saigon has more than 3400 restaurants. We would surely like to come back to ten of them: La Villa remains on the top since 2011. It has its regular patrons. We have also seen a couple of tables occupied by honeymooners. Tina takes great care of them all year long, and Valentine Day, with a special menu, is always celebrated lovingly in this embassy of the French good taste.

Warmly recommended.

Dress code casual elegant.

Open Monday – Saturday 11:45 to 16:00; dinner 18:30 to late (last order is 21:30).

LA VILLA:  14 Ngo Quang Huy, Thao Dien Ward, (Opposite to An Phu Supermarket), District 2,  Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
PHONE: +84 8 3898 2082,   +84 9 0771 9879

A leading nightspot since 2005, attracting the preppies a bit like Annabel's London or Chez Castel Paris, it has the been designed following the same plans as a “memberhip club”: a lounge bar peppered with comfy couches with a bit loud music downstairs, and a quiet and chic chef_bien_nguyen_xu_bar_lounge_best_restaurant_saigonrestaurant upstairs. Many expats and locals stuck at the bar dozens of time a year, without visiting the restaurant ever. We did the contrary, and concentrated on the gastronomic resources of this exciting place, managed by one of the leading Vietnamese chefs from the young generation.

Bien Nguyen spent his childhood and adolescence in Australia. A born gourmet, he entered the industry when he was 15 years old. Initially a dishwasher, he quickly climbed the steps, and opened his first restaurant when he was 22. He came back to Vietnam in 2004, initiating a brilliant career which we would rather call a passion. After spending a couple of hours sharing our diner with him, we realized that, an accomplished foodie, he visited the best, and sometimes most secret restaurants around the world. To enjoy, not to copy, as his cuisine is definitely a personal interpretation of the Vietnamese cuisine. The Bien's touch doesn't alterate the tradition. He likes to say -and we enjoy this term for dropping it regularly into our reviews- that a good cuisine should be 3D. Particularly the Vietnamese one: visually appealing, with an ideal texture matching a perfect savor. Xu is not a plush restaurant serving local cuisine in elegant china, but a place where tradition rhymes with innovation. With a wine paring copied on the best French restaurants.

We prepared our palate with some “Gin Martini”, and started our trip into the culinary provinces of Vietnam from the North with “Pho Cuon Ha Noi”, rice noodle sheet rolled with minced beef and super fresh aromatic herbs. Followed by one of our favorites, “Nem Cua Be”, deep-fried crab and pork roll, with pickle and fresh rice noodle salad. Those iconic specialties, which we normally always enjoyed with Hanoi Beer, were much more attractively paired with one glass of well chilled “Fritz's Riesling, Rheinhessen, Familie Hasselbach 2017” from Germany. Its mineral taste counterbalanced the sweet and spicy aromas of the dipping sauce accompanying this succulent, classic appetizer.

Another ideally selected white wine, “Chardonnay Elegance, Pays d'Oc, Pierre & Remy Gauthier”, with fresh notes of vanilla, smoke, and hints of sweet spices, helped to develop the complex savors of Central Vietnam “Banh It Tran”: minced pork and shrimp, filled in a curious yet palatable glutinous rice cake. From the same region, “Cao Lau”, Hoi An noodle with Char Siu (“fork roasted” pork with red spices), was a delicacy very nicely presented into the plate, over a nest of mung bean sprout.

We like cuisine from the South. Enjoying it on a daily basis during our long gastronomic stays in Indochina but... never experienced local “Grilled Sturgeon”, indeed! A favorite in Russia and Central Europe, we didn't know that it was also served in Vietnam. It is!  At least in Xu, where it tasted so divinely! Fragrantly marinated in turmeric. More tropical, “Coconut Braised Pork Belly” melted in our mouth, sweet and sour, due to the pickled red cabbage and caramelized Daikon  -mild flavored radish-  accompanying this signature dish, adequately paired with intense French red wine from Pays d'Oc: “Pig Edition, Cuvée réservée, AOC Minervois, Roche Mazet 2017”.

Xu is also reputed for the quality of its steaks. Though it wasn't featured in our Four-Course Set Menu (only USD 60, including wine pairing), we wished to experience beef, and tasted “Soy Glazed Beef Fillet Mignon” from the Five-Course menu (USD 82, including wine pairing). It was more filet than Mignon (“Filet Mignon” is pork, by definition). Like stewed, it almost melted over our tongue. As a reward, it was served with savory “Garlic Potatoe Purée”, reminding us a bit of Joël Robuchon's legendary mashed potatoes, and Morning Glory (water spinach). This sappy dish helped us finishing our glass of Minervois in style.

There was a “Trou Normand” (lemon sherbet), like in the French “auberges”. This tradition, dating back from Escoffier and set back into fashion by Bocuse in the 1970s, is uncommon in Saigon. Though, there was no better way to gently clean our palate before enjoying “Liberation”. This is how Chef Bien poetically calls his desserts. Opportunely served on tasting portions, we had sweets from the North (refreshing “Lotus Seed Che”), the Central provinces (“Che Troi Nuoc”, ginger sticky rice, quite reminiscent of the Thai desserts), not to forget the South (“Coconut Che”, one of our preferred coconut milk specialties). The cherry on the cake was the unexpected wine pairing with late harvest wine, still relatively confidential in Vietnam: quite comparable with Hungarian Tokay, Chilean “Sauvignon Blanc, Maule Valley, Concha y Toro, 2012” seduced us with its Autumn flavors, and honey tones.

Xu is one of the top 10 best gastronomic restaurants that we experienced in Saigon, with a noticeable quality in term of wine pairing.

Dress code smart casual. No sandals, no singlets.

Open daily: 11:30am - midnight.

XU RESTAURANT LOUNGE: 71-75 Hai Ba Trung, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
PHONE: +84 28 3824 8468

STOKER WOODFIRED GRILL & BAR (*****L): Two places are symbolizing fire: Hell and Stoker. We definitely prefered to visit the second one. A smart restaurant, where all dishes are woodfire grilled. Located in the Golden Triangle of Saigon, close to Dong Khoi and stoker steak grill best restaurant saigon ho chi minh city vietnamthe Opera House, it is more luxurious compared with El Gaucho (which used to be the referrent steakhouse downtown during many years). Far less expensive, it doesn't concentrate its offer on meat: the menu also features seafood (principally shells), vegetables, and remarkable desserts. 

Welcomed by a ravishing hostess, our visit started at the bar:
one of the most glamourous venues in District 1, with an impressive stock of liquors with the best origins.  Located at the ground floor, there is few chance that you may dine here if you come last minute: it is stormed by regular patrons. A bit noisy, as any trendy bar should be, this is not where we wished to have our first food tasting at Stoker. It has two more floors for a quieter, yet still warm atmosphere.

We sat in the second floor dining room: designed halfway between a British pub, and a  Manhattan Upper East Side posh supper-club.  It was maybe a bit too early (7:30pm), the room was still quite empty. It filled up quickly from 8:30 pm; still offering the same high level of comfort and service.

The acoustic was fine:
which is not always the case in convivial restaurants. We could discuss without raising the voice.

Before ordering our appetizer, we had been invited to inspect the ground floor open kitchen. The meat, exhibited in a refrigerated show window like masterpieces of gastronomic art, is dry-aged until it obtains the texture of ham. This process takes approximately one month. The drier features principally Australian organic beef, and local farm duck. Once it had been finished in the in-house smoker, the meat, grilled over natural wood, gains a level of flavor and tenderness which we experienced nowhere else in Saigon.

The menu is attractive, easy to read, offering plenty of options. We let Australian Executive Chef George Bloomfield suggest us his a few signatures dishes.

We always skipped oysters in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. Too chewy. Tasteless. What wasn't our surprise discovering the high quality of  Nha Trang Oysters: would they be more iodized, we should compare them with French “Fines de Claires”. We had them crude, and barbecued with preserved lemon, butter, and sea grapes. Though we are not much in favor of cooking oysters, we found this recipe very Mediterranean, and actually mouth watering. This is certainly the appetizer which we shall order next time we visit Stoker again. Alternatively, “Japanese Scallop”, with an alchemy of leek, pickled ginger, caper, and succulent pancetta crumbs, reminded of a food tasting hosted by Chef Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée Paris, a few years ago. A delicacy!

Chef George has another very unique seafood specialty: “Fresh Sea Urchin Toasts” with cured Italian Guanciale Pork Cheek. An odd association on the paper, but a delight in the plate. We didn't know that this shell, very popular in Mediterranean countries, was available in the Saigon gastronomic scene. Stoker imports it from Australia.

We had it all paired with  Australian  “Riesling Kilikanoon, Clare  Valley, Killerman's Run, 2016”, combining fresh limes with lemon essence, and boosting pleasant crisp acidity.

Very academic, “Seared Foie Gras”, with caramelized pear (which we preferred to the figs, traditionaly accompanying foie gras), seasoned with Cambodian Kampot pepper, was served with a portion of distinctive, a bit Poilane-like home-baked sourdough bread. Classic and classy, it had been aristocratically paired with “CaRo, Cosecha 2016”, produced in Argentina by Nicolas Catena in collaboration with the highly prestigious French Domaines Barons de Rothschild (this explains the name: Ca for Catena, and Ro for Rothschild). Featuring Malbec from Mendoza for the strength, and predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon for a more fruity savor, this wine is a pure marvel. Served by the bottle, it paired lavishingly the rest of our dinner.

We like poultry a lot, and really appreciated George's “Crispy Skin Duck Breast”. Dried aged 21 days, it came ideally textured. Crispy as promised, with a melting flesh full of savors, it could give the illusion dtat it had been cooked by a French “Maître Rotisseur”. It was accompanied with kale cooked over the coal, Mulberry, and Kohlrabi cream with a subtle Central European taste.

The beef was equally remarkable, and among the very best ever tasted in Southeast Asia. We always preferred Australian Wagyu to the pricey Kobe, too fat for a Western palate, or to the US meat often injected with hormones. The 40 days dry-aged Sirloin, served over a wooden plate, was exceptional: envelopped with that unique charcoal essence, and a juicy texture, orgasmic in the mouth. Don't ask us which sauces were proposed with our Sirloin: when we have top quality steak in our plate, we don't use sauce at all. But we enjoyed a bit of the crispy vegetables accompanying our dish;  “Brocolli with Brown Butter Almond”, and “Green Beans with Seeded Mustard & Garlic Chip”.  Grilled, they keep all their vitamins and minerals, and their taste comes at a peak.

We were expecting the kind of desserts you commonly find in a steakhouse: cheesecake, ice creams... But George rather made it fine-dining until the very last moment, with the yummiest sweets ever. “Citrus & Lavender Delicious” with honey double cream, and “Crème Brûlée” were definitely what he defines in his sexy menu as “Happy Ending” of the best which we ever received in a city well known for this Oriental specialty!

We finished with one glass of  “Ron Zacapa Centenario”, from Guatemala. Our favorite premium rum.

This faultless dinner would cost approximately USD 100 per person. Without wine. That was a bit a banquet, and being more reasonable than us you may expect a USD 70-80 bill. The tempting Set Lunch, at only USD 10 (!), features starter-main-dessert, plus Lavazza Espresso. Beef is often part of it, with just a little USD 3 for special steaks (“Grilled Australian Steak, 120 day Grain Fed, 150gr”, for example). It is only served from Monday until Friday, 11:30 am – 2:30 pm.

Dress code casual.

Open Monday - Friday: 11:30am – 12am, Saturday - Sunday: 4pm - 12am

STOKER WOODFIRED GRILL & BAR: 44 Mac Thi Buoi, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
PHONE: + 84 907 292725

SHANG PALACE (****L): We recently discovered the authentic Cantonese and Hong Kong cuisine served in this casual-chic restaurant, targeting corporate guests and families alike. Our first experience concentrated mostly on the excellent, fairly priced Dim-Sum shang palace norfolk best chinese beijing duck cantonese dim sum saigonselection, offered either by the all-you-can-eat buffet (VND 428,000 / USD 16,5 ++), featuring 43 choices of dishes with complimentary Chinese tea. Or a la carte, by generous baskets containing three or four dumplings, served steamed or deep-fried.

We shortly expected our first dish,
“Beijing Soup”, a classic, richly livened up with seafood, nibbling succulent Nuts Grilled with Sesame Seeds, observing the well-patronized room. The elegant multilingual waiters (most of them can speak English, Chinese, and of course Vietnamese), and the charming hostesses managed a most pleasant, faultless service. Contrary to many upscale Chinese restaurants, Shang Palace enjoys natural light from the large windows with an animated street view. This a bonus for Westerners; Asian people don't mind that kind of detail: just concentrating on their plate. Moreover when the cuisine is splendid!

There were not less than 18 steamed Dim Sum on the menu. Classic ones (which are also the cheapest at VND 55,000 / USD 2,3 ++) are usually available by the buffer. We found them ideally textured, tasty, and served at the right temperature. “Shanghainese Pork Dumplings” and “Steamed Chicken & Mushroom Buns” are worth the visit. More unique signatures are only available a la carte, at VND 75,000 / USD 3,3 ++, until VND 90,000 / USD 3,9 ++ for “Steamed Beef Honeycomb with Chu Hou Sauce”. Only served in a few Chinese restaurants in Saigon, this
chewy delicacy oddly tastes to the Western gourmet. In the same register, “Steamed Beef Tripe with Ginger & Spring Onion” is another favorite.

Deep-fried / Baked dumplings were mouth-watering! We recommend “Deep-Fried Prawn Cheese Rolls”, as crispy and yummy as “Pan-fried Chives & Prawn Dumplings”.

As a dessert, we had a crush on “Glutinous Sesame Rice Balls in Ginger Syrup” (in the same price range like the Dim Sum: VND 70,000 / USD 3 ++).

We shall come back soon for Beijing Duck, reputed one of the best in town.

The average check is under VND 580,000 / USD 25 ++, making Shang Palace one of the best value gastronomic Chinese restaurants in the touristic and central District 1.

Dress code smart casual

Open for Lunch: 10:30am – 2:00pm Monday – Saturday, and 10:30am – 2:30pm Sundays and Public Holidays. Dinner: 5:00pm – 10:00pm daily.

SHANG PALACE (at Norfolk Mansion): 17-19-21 Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Viet Nam
PHONE: +84 28 3822 6111,  3824 1835

EL GAUCHO (****L):
This is always surprising to see how Asian people are fond of steakhouses. If for French or American enjoying a good sirloin or rib eye steak in a bistro sounds like a pleasant middle-class routine, it comes in Asia with such a chic image. Imported meat is el gaucho best steak house saigon ho chi minh vietnamexpensive, and enjoying it remains a real privilege. El Gaucho is new, but already one of the leading restaurants in Saigon. Things go fast in this developing, refined city: you win (or you lose) fast, depending on the mouth to ear and reviews in the magazines. Once at our hotel, Park Hyatt, opposite the restaurant, we inquired to the concierge, management, and even F&B, asking which was the best steakhouse in District 1. The response was always the same: “-You should try El Gaucho or Stoker!”.

Don’t dine alone in a steakhouse of that class. Bring a Saigonese friend. There are many chances that he/she already heard of this place, which he/she maybe cannot afford; treating an educated person in such a reputed restaurant shall bring you some bonuses, either in term of business or love… We have seen how Vietnamese can be excessively gourmet. Sometimes more than French or Italian. The reaction of our partner at El Gaucho was like orgasmic.

First of all, the restaurant is trendy. Modern, elegant, comfortable, with great local and international staff.  Waiters are amongst t
che most enthusiastic which we have seen during our long gastronomic tour of Southeast Asia. The concept “El Gaucho” started so sucessfully in Thailand (Bangkok), that the Saigon franchise has developed a four levels concept to host more patrons with more comfort. We were quite attracted by the large, little more formal dining room opening to a smoking terrace with a view on the animated Hai Ba Trung street. But David, the young and active owner, suggested that the ground-floor bar would be more animated on a weekday. We sat at the bar, and enjoyed one of the most friendly and remarkable meat dinners in our gourmet life.

What is important to us, and this is what motivated us to experience El Gaucho:  the chef only uses beef from cattle that are handled, fed and treated according to the strict animal welfare guidelines, raised in non-stress environments and at no point exposed to antibiotics or hormones. This is guaranteed and written black on white on the menu. Few steakhouses are providing to their guests such healthy, prime quality beef from the best Australian and American farms. Reaching the highest marble scores and grading, the hand-cut and hand trimmed meat is carefully aged in a cold storage to fully develop the flavor and tenderness for a fantastic melt in our mouth. Note that it is 100% Halal certified.

We ordered our beef by the weight. It goes up to 1000 grams by the portion! Unless you are an ogre, keep with the smallest, 250 grams steaks, and don’t miss the extraordinary side dishes, from the classic French Fries till the gourmand Macaroni and Cheese, Sautéed Onions or wonderful Corn on Cob, nor the to-die-for sauces (we recommend the spicy BBA Sauce and the Wild Mushroom Sauce ). We had a thick, medium rare Black Angus Filet Steak, juicy, tender, with such a rich taste. Our partner was like magnetized by her USDA Prima Rib Eye Steak, melting almost like butter. At approximately USD 40 (plus 10% VAT), that was not cheap on the local standard. The side dishes came in a generous portion at USD 4 till 7 only! What sounded odd was the fact that they charge for the sauces (around USD 4 - 5). We were suggested to try just a bit of the homemade Salchicha (a good starter at an affordable USD  8). This spicy sausage, tasting like North African “merguez”, is permanently on sale at El Gaucho butcher’s shop, located opposite to the bar. The price of the all cleaned and trimmed beef, lamb and pork is attractive (the Salchicha costs USD 22 / Kg; USDA Prime Beef goes for USD 77 / Kg, plus 10% VAT). El Gaucho is also reputed for its pastas (try the Spaghetti with Chorizo Bolognese, at USD 15), fish (Grilled Tasmanian Salmon is a signature, at USD 24). We enjoyed the creamy “Provoleta”: grilled Provolone cheese, tomato, with a hint of oregano and olive oil (USD 10). The Caesar Salad, rich on Parmesan, is considered one of the best in Saigon (USD 10).

We have been quite impressed by the wine list. Updated with the best brands from Argentina, Chile, Spain, Australia and the USA, all quite overpriced, it featured a more than decent Argentinean Malbec at USD 8 by the glass, nicely pairing our meat.

Impossible to leave El Gaucho without tasting the Hot Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream, or the so divine Argentinean Dulce De Leche in Crepe with Vanilla Ice Cream. Most of the desserts cost less than 9 USD. If you are smiling and friendly, the staff might offer you a glass of signature iced Vodka Caramel, pairing so well the Dulce de Leche.

The best compliment about El Gaucho was pronounced by our partner: “-We shall come back?”. The restaurants has a lot of regular patrons, who obviously all got the same reaction.

Dress code casual.

Opening hours: Daily from 11 am until late.

EL GAUCHO: 74/1 Hai Ba Trung, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1,
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
PHONE: +84 8 38 272 090 

SQUARE ONE (****L):  A Top 20 Best Hotel Restaurants Around the World by Daily Meal, and One of 82 Hot Tables by Condé Nast Traveler, the atmospheric Square One restaurant at Park Hyatt Saigon is a place where West (France) meets East (Vietnam, of course).  It has an attractive 3-course Daily Set Lunch menu (about USD 24), served in two  different square one park huayy best gastronomic restaurants in saigon ho chi minh vietnamdining areas (plus three private rooms) displaying integrated open-kitchens. The cuisine is Vietnamese-French, with two distinctive chefs.

Alexandre Durand, much inspired by his mentor Alain Ducasse, manages the French team. His cuisine is "bistro-chic", featuring signature like "Duck Rillettes Toasts", as authentic as in Le Mans. Astonishingly affordable, at approximately USD 10. The same price more or less for the best "Paté en Croûte" in town. We loved the  (a "bourgeoise" terrine, mixing pork and foie gras). We regret that the exquisite "Fish Quenelles en cocotte", has been deleted from the Summer menu. They made us feel like transported in a Michelin-starred "Bouchon" in Lyons... That was a good reason to pair it with a pleasant Gamay, "Saint-Amour, Cuvée Ensorceleuse" (USD 88), produced in the region by Ferraud and Fils.

Chef Tran Van Son cooked for us "Crispy Soft Shell Crab" with Garlic, Dried Shrimps, Chilli, and Rock Salt (USD 16).
His aristocratic seafood platters and fish specialties feature Alaskan Black Cod, King Fish, Norwegian Salomon Steaks and superlative Lobsters. One of his best sellers is "Wok Live Canadian Lobster", Dried Seafood Sauce, Asparagus, Mushroom, Egg Noodles, and Chilli (USD 60). We paired it with well chilled, mineral "Sancerre, Pascal Jolivet" (USD 80), suggested by Marie, the charming French chef-sommelier. Some specialties from the Clay Pot are well worth the visit: like the Saigon Style US Scallops, Bok Choy, Onion, Tamarind Sauce, Coriander, and Sticky Rice (USD 27).

Before its 2018 splendid refurbishment, Square One was first of all reputed for being the first steakhouse in Saigon. It is still. Competing with well-established restaurants like El Gaucho, located next door, on serving the best imported meat in Vietnam.  The most popular cuts of richly marbled and tender Australian Wagyu, delightfully flavored bites of US Grain Fed Angus, and all-natural grass fed Australian beef with a natural taste and texture are available from the charcoal grill.

Caviar must be oscietre! We had the opportunity to taste the local caviar De Duc during our repeated stays in Vietnam. It is succulent, available at Square One at USD 75 per 50gr.

We concluded our lunch with a "Whole Roasted Pineapple, Lemongrass Caramel, Coconut Sorbet" (USD 19). This yummy signature dish, prepared by the table, should be ordered in advance.

The silverware and Leglé Limoges plates have been lavishly designed specially for Square One.

The average bill for dinner is USD 60 - 90. Excluding wine, serve "a la ficelle" (by the measure), according to a tradition dating back from the 15th Century.

This glamorous restaurant features an outdoor terrace, plus four private dining rooms to cater to guests’ needs for special events. The bar at Square One showcases an extravagant selection of fine wines, fancy Champagne, and refreshing cocktails mixed with tropical fruits. It has one of the largest wine-cellar in Ho Chi Minh City.

Dress code smart casual.

Open daily for lunch 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, and dinner 6:00 pm to 10:30 pm.

SQUARE ONE (hotel Park Hyatt Saigon): 2 Lam Son Square, District 1,
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

PHONE: +84 8 3520 2359

OPERA (****L): A top 20 best restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, located in the ritzy Park Hyatt Saigon, this contemporary trattoria with a touch of elegance opens to the street with a pleasant terrace where reservation is imperative: who wouldn’t dream of a relaxing lunch or dinner al fresco with a view of the colonial Opera House?

The new Chef de Cuisine Matteo Fracalossi, with 20 years of experience, improved his passion for cooking at Villa Crespi, trained by best gastronomic restaurants in saigon ho chi minh vietnam park hyatt saigontwo-Michelin-star chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo. He then worked in the best restaurants around the world before he joined the ark Hyatt Saigon. Though his cuisine, prepared in the large open-kitchen, tends to be influenced by a cool Northern Italian influence, he is also an expert on pasta from Central Italy and authentic Neapolitan pizza, made fresh from a wood-fired oven.

We ordered the “Business Lunch Set Menu”, available from Monday to Friday, 11:30am till 2:30pm. For approximately USD 20, which is great value for a five-star hotel, we had three courses, with a selection of 4 -  5 dishes per course. We started with Fried Eggplant Roll, Chilled Tomato Sauce and Basil Pesto. Light and perfumed, ideally accompanied with lukewarm, mouth-watering focaccia bread sipped in artisanal ultra-virgin olive oil. As a main, we were so happy to see that the chef included one of our favorite pizzas, with Prosciutto Ham, Funghi (mushrooms) and Mozzarella on a dispendious toping. The tomato sauce was 100% home-made, and the paste was crispy and slightly burned as we like. The portion would have been enough to feed two gourmets. This pizza costed about USD10 on the extensive a la carte.  A small, good pizzeria in Saigon would charge more or less the same price.

We would warmly recommend the “Dessert of the Day” which was one of the best signature cakes available in the “Pastry Boutique Menu”: Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake. Silky white, milk and dark chocolate mousse made from premium cacaos from Vietnam. 

We paired our lunch with a bottle of Chianti Riserva Piccini Collezione Oro 2011 (USD 60 / bottle).  One serving of freshly brewed coffee was included in the set price.

One of the best restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City; and certainly one of the best value for money at lunch time. For dinner, expect an average bill of USD 70 per person, excluding wine.

Dress code casual.

Open for lunch 11:30 am to 2:30 pm Monday to Saturday; 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm Sunday. Dinner daily, 6:00 pm - 10:30 pm

OPERA RESTAURANT (hotel Park Hyatt Saigon):
2 Lam Son Square, District 1,
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

PHONE: +84 8 3520 2357

Its name sounds like a synthesis: this “maison” (house in French) is the place where East meets West. Or, more precisely, where France meets Vietnam. Designed into a nostalgic Indochinese style, with a refined dining room and certainly one of the most romantic terraces in town, this best traditional vietnamese restaurant cochichinese tonkin annam cuisine saigon ho chi minh city luxury gourmet restaurantselegant mansion became within only a few months one of the most recommended Vietnamese restaurants. Ear to mouth drove us to the chic, slightly remote District 2, where the best chefs are slowly setting an upscale gastronomic hub. With La Villa a few blocks away, Maison Mân-Do has no choice but dealing with perfection.

What did we like? Everything! The elegance of the house, display of the dining room (with a cozy private room, ideal for families or business lunch), made-to-order furniture, nostalgic pictures of the yesteryears capital city of Cochinchina... Everything is appealing. Tables are separated enough for a romance or confidential discussion, providing a comfort optimized by the generous volume of the room. There is a nice playground for the kids: uncommon in this category of restaurant.

As soon as we sat, the plethoric and well-trained staff approached us. Two minutes later our drinks were on our table. It took much longer, let's blame it on ourselves, to start our dinner as... it was so difficult to choose out of 167 tempting dishes from Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina. We liked the elegant menu, parchment and exquisitely illustrated, reminiscent of the golden years of the French Protectorate. Vietnamese check it greedily.  They represent more than 50% of the patrons: which proves that the cuisine is actually authentic. The management didn't forget the Western expatriates housed in the condominiums nearby, and the very few tourists sent by the luxury hotels in District 2 (Saigon Domaine, Villa Song...): the head-waiter spent much time with us, his iPad in hand, showing pictures of the signature dishes, kindly trying to orientate our order.

The cuisine stands halfway between upgraded street food and
, our last visit in December 2019 showed it, more and more to trendy Vietnamese fusion. Compared with the often excellent, though sometimes risky experience in the tiny local restaurants, the origin and freshness of the ingredients are carefully tracked by the chef. Moreover, the “Ga” (chicken), “Bo” (beef), and “Thit”  (pork) have been grown in established farms. Fish comes from the territorial waters. The excellent Tofu is 100% homemade (Maison Mân-Do is vegetarian friendly).

Our previous visits at Maison Mân-Do, dating back from more than one year, are still in our memory... Sampling some of the most delicious and sometimes surprising signature dishes, like “Glass Noodle Salad with Shrimps”. We loved the al-dente texture of the noodle. This is a very classic specialty, served around the world. Refreshing and sappy, indeed. Another classic, “Rice Paper Roll with BBQ Pork”, paired well with a selection of aromatic sauces, which we also used to develop the unique savor of one of our favorite specialties from the Hué: skewer like “Fishcake” (more precisely “Ca Thac Lac Cuon Mang Tay”), wrapping a green asparagus instead of a stick of wood. “Mustard Leef Roll with Beef” was one of the highlights of the dinner. The whole set came combo-style: served over the same platter. The also would recommend the superlative “Seabass with Passion Fruit Sauce”: an odd pairing, matching nicely one of our favorite fishes. Served over a bed of fresh, crispy soya, accompanied with Enoki mushrooms, this is, with the clay pot specialties, a best-seller at Maison Mân-Do.

Our last experience, à la carte, was even more interesting, as we discovered new, more sophisticated savors that time. We particularly liked the nicely textured
“Mustard Leaf Wrap with Fish Paste”. The bitterness of the spicy leaf exacerbated the sweet taste of the concentrated, curry-like fish paste. We liked the presentation and the crisp of the Ho Tay Fried Shrimps”, over a canapé of fried sweet potatoes. Glass Noodles Cà Mau Crab Soup was so fishy; yet, not as much as the amazingly tasty Soft Shell Crab with salted Egg Sauce. Salted egg is more used in desserts, such as Mid-Autumn Cake, and rice soup. It was deliciously developing the unique aromas of the shell crab, converting it into a delicacy! The amazingly affordable and so fragrant Pan-Fried Glass Noodles with Crab & Vegetable, is a light alternative: as less oil as possible is used for its perfect cooking.

Poultry at  Maison Mân-Do is sappy and fairly priced. We would be superlative regarding the quality of the new chef's signature Grilled Chicken Fillet with Lemon Leaves”, slowly marinated and perfumed with the elegant, bitter fragrance of the leaves. We dipped the melting, almost buttery meat into salt pepper & lemon juice sauce: a traditional base for grill dish in Vietnamese style.

We couldn't leave the table without experiencing
Passion Fruit custard” (sweet and sour... our favorite!), Creme Caramel (a classic), or “Grass Jelly Pudding”, refreshing our palate adequately.

The portions have been sharply calculated for a normal Western appetite. Vietnamese are serious eaters, anytime and anywhere. Lots of them, pampered by Thanh and her partner Ni Le, the exquisite "maîtresses de maison", made this restaurant their canteen. Usually ordering not less than eight dishes to share with their family or friends.

The room ambiance was easy-going and nostalgic with, on Friday and Saturday evenings,  a pianist softly playing French melodies (Amélie Poulain, Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour...).

What will make us visiting this restaurant again is the amazingly light bill: with one glass of nicely selected house wine  (we had paired our dinner with fruity "Sauvignon Blanc, Oxford Landing Estate, Australia", at USD 6.5 by the glass), a fine dinner shouldn't cost you more than USD 25. Which is unbeatable in such a stylish, amazingly well serviced gastronomic restaurant which gained in popularity since it had been invested by TV shows, gala dinners, and further social events, celebrations
(wedding, birthdays...) or business functions (hosting prestigious business dinner, tea-breaks, and leading companies corporate lunches).

Dress code casual.

MAISON MÂN-DO: Nguyen U Di, Phuong Thao Dien, District 2, 70000 Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
PHONE: +84 933 77 44 87

BISTRO SÔNG VIE (****L): Our gastronomic experience in this awesome restaurant with a terrace along the River Saigon was to die for. From the extravagant à la carte breakfast, till the candlelit dinner, we have experienced a technical perfection by the recently appointed best gourmet restaurants in saigon ho chi minh city villa song bistro song vieSingaporean Chef Jeremy Choo, and much kindness from part of the enthusiastic waiters. The owner of the best Thai restaurant in Singapore, Jeremy is a disciple of Pierre Gagnaire. An expert in French gastronomy, importer of French wine in Singapore, he impressed us by selecting the most appropriate wine, pairing a succulent French cuisine. Making Bistro Song Vi a top five best French restaurants in Saigon. In this part of District 2, only La Villa can compete, indeed.

Jeremy knows all the tricks from the Michelin-star chefs, alternating his inventive dishes with entertaining specialties from the French terroir which starred chefs don't serve anymore in their asepticised restaurants, transformed into culinary laboratories.  Two years spent in the “Académie Culinaire de Toulouse” made him a specialist for “Duck à l'Orange” (a signature dish), and “Pan-Fried Duck Foie Gras”: like melting in the mouth, with Pineapple, and a subtle Piña Colada Sauce, nicely paired with one flute of “De Bortoli DB Sparling Brut, New South Wales, Australia”. A refreshing, “bistro” wine, matching the tropical climate. It has some pleasant acidity, counterbalancing the sweetness of the liver. It also paired well the rich, creamy, aromatic “Seafood Bouillabaisse”, with mussel, clam, oyster, and gambas. Served with “Garlic Croutons”, like in Marseille. 

“Premium Sirloin Steak” is totally unique, with “Valrhona 66% Cocoa” chocolate sauce. Odd? Not at all. Escoffier invented the recipe more than one century ago. Cocoa is a spice, and it matches well some meats like beef, “Coq Au Vin”, or “Rabbit Stew”. It was accompanied with organic vegetables from the cool gardens of Dalat: the most fragrant baby carrots and mushrooms. Have it with one glass of “McGuigan Estate Shiraz 2011, South Australia” (for its note of chocolate, over blackcurrants and further red fruits). Those liking more sophistication and a glamorous note should rather order “Château du Vieux Parc Corbière, 2012, Guy Panis, Languedoc-Roussillon”. Produce of the French terroir, made in oak barrels, this is an elegant, complex wine, with a beautiful balance of red berry fruit and oak on the palate.

We ended this top notch dinner in style, with “Flambéed Norwegian Omelette”, accompanied with the best strawberries in all Asia (from Dalat), and one glass of Cointreau: our favorite French liquor matched so well this classic and classy dessert.

We had our dinner in a relatively full restaurant. Patrons are Westerners expats living in D2, young local yuppies, and a lot of smart executive ladies. Gastronomic is much patronized by women in Saigon: they particularly enjoy French cuisine, and know wine better than anybody. We met the same category of gourmets like at Le Corto, a new and select French fine dining table, where we had our dinner the next day.  Quality food for quality people!

Dress code casual.

Open for Breakfast: 6.00am – 10.30am. Lunch / Dinner: 11.30am – 10.00pm

BISTRO SÔNG VIE (hotel Villa Song): 197/2 Nguyen Van Huong Street
Thao Dien Ward, District 2,
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
PHONE: +84-8-3744 6090, +84-8-3744 6091

YU CHU (****L): Those who can't find time to explore the magic and gastronomic Chinese district of Cholon, a city in the city spreading over D5 and D6, still can enjoy a real Cantonese cuisine in the central and historic D1. During our awesome stay at InterContinental Asiana, there were two things which we could miss: the superb Club Lounge, and Yu Chu: a Top 10 Cantonese restaurants in Saigon.

Most of the Western foodies speaking of “Chinese cuisine” usually refer to specialties from Yue, Guangdong, and Guangzhou Cantonese yu chu intercontinental asiana saigon best chinese cantonese restaurant saigon best dum sumprovinces.Well balanced and not greasy, Cantonese cuisine uses rapid cooking methods, like stir-frying, and steaming / double steaming for Dim Sum, for instance. We could eat dozens of those small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets (or on small plates, when deep-fried). In Cantonese teahouses, carts with Dim Sum will be served in the restaurant for diners to order from without leaving their seats. At Yu Chu, we rather made our choice from the special menu, featuring a cornucopia of dumplings.

We are in a palace hotel. Some of the offers are therefore five-star also. Dim Sum filled with ultra fresh scallops are a delicacy, with a twist of teriyaki or soy sauce. Cheaper options, filled with steamed squids or shrimp/spinach, is alternatively original and tasty. That was the first time we had been proposed “Steam Duck Dim Sum”: melting in the mouth, and well worth the try. That was one of our favorites, with the exquisite “Pork / Crab Roe Siu Mai”: an open ravioli, “Siu Mai” is generously available on the menu, steamed or deep-fried, super crispy. We concluded our “Dim Sum” degustation with “fried-steamed-fried” “Beijing Potstickers” medium-sized dumplings, usually eaten in two to three bites. Fairly thick wrapped crispy on the outside, while still being soft and encasing the juicy filling inside, “Potstickers” is an interesting alternative to the traditional “Dim Sum”.

Desserts are plentiful. From the classic “Steamed Egg Yolk Buns”: specialty from Sichuan, those whealthy custard buns, locally named “Lai Wong Bao”, come with a particularly sweet filling. Those looking for a lighter, more tropical alternative should order the signature “Mango & Grapefruit Cream”.

We have been positively surprised by the good value for money for our satisfactory gourmet experience in such a fancy place. The “All You Can Eat Dim Sum lunch offer was VND 498,000++/ person including Chinese Kungfu Pu Er Tea iced tea/ hot tea.  Slightly more expensive for dinner, at VND 598,000++/ person.

Dress code casual.

YU CHU (at INTERCONTINENTAL ASIANA SAIGON:): Hai Bà Trưng, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Bến Nghé Quận 1 Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
PHONE: +84 8 3520 9099, 
+84 8 3520 9999                FACSIMILE: +84 8 3520 9955

LE CORTO (****L): Saigon is not a city for established restaurants. Open a new one, if you are a good chef with a note of originality, and if the location close to the premium hotels is strategic, then it just can be a success story from the very beginning. It took the young and le corto best gastronomic restaurant in saigo ho chi minh city vietnamambitious Sakal Phoeung less than one year to develop one of the premium five-star French restaurants in the competitive District 1. His partners designed one of the most elegant, lounge style dining-rooms, while he invested in hiring the best staff to provide a top class service to the new generation of local gourmets: young, rich, open minded and focusing on the best products from the best origins, often more expert in wine than most of the European, Saigon has got a hard to please elite of foodies. They all come to Le Corto.

French with Cambodian origins, living in South East Asia since 2000, Chef Sakal is as atypical as his cuisine. He learned from Michelin star chefs at “Le Bateau Ivre”, “Château de Candie”, joined the difficult and very academic luxury hotel industry at “Sofitel Phokeetra Phnom Penh” and “Sofitel Plaza Saigon”. From his mentors, he inherited skill and tradition (he is the President of Escoffier Vietnam and a member of L’Académie Culinaire de France), and let his imagination do the rest. And the rest is just splendid!

Chef Sakal is always ready to talk to his guests, and spend some time with them chatting at the bar before diner. We have seen Daniel Boulud in New York or Paul Bocuse in Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or doing the same. His staff has been well trained, and can do the job until he goes back to the kitchen. He knows that Veronika, the divine and experienced Russian “maîtresse de maison” (this is how we call a luxury restaurant manager in France, when she is a lady), will take great care of the VIP guests (which means 100% of the patrons) assisted by a remarkable staff (mostly feminine, like in many restaurants in Vietnam).

Our dinner started in style with
Caviar Le  Duc over Minced Crab: a fishy and richly iodized amuse-bouche. We love caviar, and are lucky enough to experience the best brands from the best origins. Sounding like French, Le Duc actually doesn’t refer to caviar from Gironde or Sologne, but to a new local production by Le Anh Duc’s sturgeon farm, at the Da Mi hydroelectric reservoir lake, in Tanh Linh District, Vietnam's central southern province of Binh Thuan. This was exciting to experience one of the first 100% Vietnamese harvests, indeed. The savor is rich, not too salted. Better that Russian caviar, though a little bit less textured, it is far superior to the Chinese production which we experienced in some Michelin star restaurants. At about $5,000 a kilo for Beluga, Le Duc also produces super rare Albino caviar which can sell for up to $100,000 per kilogram! 

Keeping with fish and refinement, we ordered a so fresh “Raw Scallops, Marinated Salmon Steak, Avocado Purée Trio, Wasabi sauce”. This is a season dish, a la carte in June / July, with a strong Japanese influence. It was ideally paired by Veronika, an expert in wine, with “De Bortoli, Riverina” (USD 7 / glass), a young  generic Chardonnay from a small vineyard establish in the 1920s in Bilbul, North-South Wales, Australia. Signature fish dishes feature “Grilled Squid and Prawns with Herbs and Salsa”, or “Oven Seared Catch of the Day, Sautéed Vegetables”. Most of those seafood dishes are fairly priced, at around USD 10 till 15.

Goose / Duck liver is a must in a gourmet restaurant in Saigon. Sakal is reaching perfection with one of his best specialties: “Pan Fried Foie Gras Lasagna, Wild Mushrooms, Black Truffles Foam” (USD 18). Playing with aromas and textures, he achieved an Oscar worthy recipe inspired by Escoffier. The wine, inspired by Veronika, was a “Côtes-du-Rhône, Oraison” (USD 38 / bottle). Soft, balanced, with a pleasant finish, served directly from the cellar at 12°, this is an ideal pairing with the truffle strong essence. Moreover, it brings a light, refreshing note, always welcome under a tropical climate. Another inspiring signature main dish, which we shall straightly order next time: the so-French “Veal Sweetbreads with Mushrooms and Crushed Potatoes”. At only USD 22, we are in the standard price in a small bistro in Paris. Another fairly priced bistro fare:  we would warmly recommend Sakal’s tender and juicy “Black Angus Beef Fillet with Black Pepper” (USD 22). We cleaned our plate with one piece of the delicious freshly baked bread presented by the waitress with each dish. We finished our glass of Côte-du-Rhone with our grilled beef; alternatively if could be nicely paired with “Banfi Col Di Sasso”, from Tuscany, Italy (USD 23 / glass).

Our dessert was “Iced Nougat, Red Fruits Sauce”, perfectly aromatic and actually yummy. You can also taste the surprising “Liquorice Crème Brûlée, with Coffee Ice Cream”. Most sweets cost USD 9.

This promising gastronomic restaurant proposes a money saving set lunch at USD 8 (2 courses) and USD 11 (3 courses), including tea or coffee.

Dress code casual smart.

Open for lunch 11am - 2:30pm. Dinner 5pm - 11pm.

LE CORTO:  5D Nguyen Sieu, Ben Nghe ward, District 1,
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
PHONE: +84 8 38220671

Located next to the standard, plain-Jane Starbucks-like pubs and standard eateries housed in the InterContinental Asiana complex, Basilico brings a touch of class and a touch of gastronomy to one of our preferred hotels in Saigon. A trattoria, it doesn't best gastronomic italian trattoria restaurant pizza saigon ho chi minh citytransport you in Milan or Naples as well as a smaller Italian bistro would do. Too large. Too luxury. But it perfectly does the  job in term of quality, for quite a honest value.Though not as brilliant as Theo Mio, in InterContinental Bangkok, it locally plays in the same category as Namo Tuscan Grill. A good reference in Saigon. Pizza is considered as one in the best in town, in competition with the prestigious -and pricey- Opera, at the Park Hyatt, and there is a good selection of pasta.

We wished to make our first experience more corporate and cost related than 100% gastronomic, as Basilico is a favorite for casual business lunch in District 1. The 3 courses Set Menu, at approximately USD 20, sells like hotcakes. It looked awesome, though not featuring pizza the day of our visit. We shall order it next time, just to compare it with the fantastic one enjoyed at Opera the same week.

Starters were light and rather corporate: “Insalata di Tonno”, “Ceasar Salad”, or “Caprese” which we found fresh and refined, with a prime quality Buffalo Mozzarella, seasoned with sun-ripened tomatoes, fresh basil, and a fragrant extra virgin olive oil “D.O.C” (label determinating a regional product). The main course was more interesting, more gourmet oriented, and varied with a choice of five dishes. Except the quite international “Pan Roasted Chicken”, the rest consisted of tempting regional specialties. Two were typically trattoria-style: “Amatriciana” (Pancetta bacon, with spicy tomato sauce and Pecorino Romano cheese), and the succulent “Manzo Brasata Di Vino Rosso”. Actually a USDA beef shank stew, with vegetable, and mashed potatoes. Aromatic, melting in the mouth, this is a signature dish. We paired it with one glass of  “Rivo Al Poggio, Castello Banfi, IGT”: a full and soft, balanced, easy-to-drink mid-range red wine from Tuscany, with fresh and pleasant fruity notes (14 USD).

Desserts couldn't be more Italian: “Panna Cotta”, or “Tiramisu”. Rich and creamy, served in a cup, covered with crisps of white chocolate, this had been paired with a strong shot of “Ristretto” coffee.

We spent less than USD 40 in a top 10 best Italian restaurants in Saigon, and could say to the chef: “Ritorneremo”!

Dress code casual.

BASILICO: (at INTERCONTINENTAL ASIANA SAIGON): Hai Bà Trưng, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Bến Nghé Quận 1 Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
PHONE: +84 8 3520 9999             
FACSIMILE: +84 8 3520 9955

That was a bit challenging to find this delightful small restaurant, though it can't have a better location, indeed. In front of Caravelle Hotel, next to the Opera House, in the most legendary street of the old Saigon: Dong Khoi. It is nostalgically the olive steakhouse best gastronomic restaurant saigon ho chi minh vietnamhoused in a French 1890s landmark building that was once the «Belle-Epoque» Catinat-Ciné, decorated with intriguing mosaics, and featuring also some apartments and workshops converted into restaurants, art shops, and teahouses.

The Olive Steakhouse opened one and a half years ago only, on the second floor. Next to L'Usine: which helps a lot to find the place, as the name of this large and well-known brasserie predominates over the façade of the building.

Designed like a French canteen, it looks different from its plush competitors. No dark color, no huge
«Chesterfield» banquettes, no gold, no bling, but a soothing simplicity which gave us the impression to visit a small eatery in Paris «Latin Quarter», or «Saint-Germain-des-Près». The middle-sized, corridor shaped dining-room, with 20-foot ceilings, tiled walls, and arched windows, kept its original 1900s ceramic tiled floor. The decoration is minimalist; what comes into the plate only matters.

Besides its design, what makes The Olive Steakhouse distinctive is the fact that the meat isn't dry-aged the American / Argentinean way. Contrary to most of the best-established steakhouses which we have visited in District 1. Chef Nguyen Trung Quân rather does it the European way, and we had the impression to enjoy authentic French «Steak Frites». He visited France, and this is certainly from where he caught the original recipe. This makes his restaurant noticeable, and we did like it.

After being welcomed by the young, courteous staff, Megan, the charming Vietnamese owner and hostess, explained us a bit of the philosophy of her restaurant, and presented us the easy to read bilingual Vietnamese / English menu, featured on a single page.

We made it «all steak», as we wanted to experience at least two different cuts. It starts from 200gr (vs 150gr at the competitors). We therefore skipped certainly delicious signature dishes, like «Creamy New Zealand Mussels», «Porc Ribs», or «Duck Breast».

We shared 200gr Australian Tenderloin (VND 320.000 / USD 14) and Rib-Eye (VND 280.000 / USD 11.94). This was more than enough for the two of us. Medium-rare, Tenderloin was thick, rosée and juicy. Nicely textured and savourous, the 100% premium cut spoke by itself. Rib-Eye was very reminiscent of the Parisian steak served every day and every time in the French brasseries and «cafés»: unpretentious, yet palatable and tender. We maybe would have liked more herbs (thyme, basil, parsley...), bringing more Mediterranean flavor to the meat. The low-calories «Black Pepper» sauce -included in the price- ideally paired our steaks. Included also, the side dishes were amongst the best ever served with meat, and also from far the cheapest (approximately two dollars, if you want to re-order) compared with the competitors. We recommend «Potato au Gratin», and the creamy, yummy «Mac & Cheese» oven backed Macaroni.

We paired our dinner with house red wine (Australian Shiraz, at
VND 130.000 / USD 5,5).

The selection of desserts was limited to «Chocolate Ice Cream & Cookies», and «Pancake & Strawberry Jam». Maybe because patrons are already done before they could finish the second course, preferring to skip desserts after the more than satisfying beef experience in one of the top five best steakhouses in Saigon by Tripadvisor.

Dress code casual.

Open daily 3PM - 10PM.

THE OLIVE STEAKHOUSE: 2nd Floor (next to L'Usine), 151 Dong Khoi Street, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
PHONE: +84 90 941 71 99


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