PLACES TO MUNCH, BRUNCH & CRUNCH
In a geographical sense, people don’t usually go all the way to North Vietnam to come back down again as it’s so easy to travel in one direction in Vietnam and explore all of what this country has to offer. So many travelers go from the Mekong delta in the south, all the way to the Red River Delta in the north and then fly onwards from there.
I came back to the south to experience Saigon through the eyes of my friend from back home, Yen, who is constantly in and out of Vietnam. She says she prefers the south of Vietnam much more to the north, as she’s sure there’s way more to do down here. I think it’s down to Saigon being the closest thing to home when you’ve been here for an extended period, there’s pretty much everything you can get back in London, here. Thus, like any big city, places to eat and drink are vast with many hidden little gems all around.
I spent about a week with her exploring many culinary delights and spending many evenings chilling out in shisha lounges and the trendiest cocktail bars, here’s a summary of the crash course she shared with me.
Xu Restaurant: Hai Ba Trung, Saigon
A fancy little cocktail bar and fine dining restaurant
Try: The set taster menu captures traditional Vietnamese flavours and dishes brilliantly, be warned that portions are unusually large for a taster menu and you’ll be bursting by the end of 5 courses. The dessert comes as 4 or 5 little mouthful portions selected from their incredible 20 or so options and if you are to go there for one reason, make it for their desserts.
Music & Atmosphere: Downstairs to the restaurant is the cocktail bar lounge, playing chilled out music and serving a host of weird and wonderful cocktails. There’s a pleasant relaxed vibe about Xu with plenty of comfortable velvet sofas to relax in to and catch up with friends. We returned back to Xu at the weekend when the party gets in to full swing, the venue is filled with socialising westerners, upbeat eclectic music and drinks all round.
MK Restaurants: Vincom center, Saigon
For a quick tasty bite Yen took me to a popular chain joint called MK we went to the branch in the Vincom centre but I saw quite a few around Saigon.If you stay long enough, you’ll have the pleasure of witnessing their hourly staff dance, which admittedly looked quite embarrassing for them to do, but it was entertaining for us.
Try: The infamous green noodles and roasted meat
L’usine Resaurant: Dong Khoi, Saigon
Great quirky place for a more sit down and long lunch serving interesting sandwiches and baguettes, deliciously cheesy quiches and tempting freshly baked cupcakes, all in a friendly, sociable environment.
El Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse: Nguyen Sieu Street, Saigon
Generally, red meat and poultry is not what Asia is known for and so it’s rare you find a restaurant here that you could describe as being ‘better than what you’ve eaten back home’. This was the case here their imported Argentinian steaks were great quality and intense flavour – this may have had a little to do with an abstinence of steak since being here, but think Gaucho Grill quality. The brilliant, smiley service was a nice surprise being in Vietnam and all.
Try: The extensive selection of wines and killer mac and cheese side dish
MOF & Mojo for Desserts and Coffee
If you have a sweet tooth like us the chain of Japanese dessert cafes, MOF, serve brilliant green tea concoctions great for settling any green tea dessert craves or just any sweet tooth pangs in general, failing that, you can find a unhealthy variety of cakes and pastries at Mojo.