Brash and buzzy: Vietnam House, Saigon

Australian Luke Nyugen’s Vietnam House restaurant in the very centre of busy Ho Chi Minh City is an assault on the senses with bold Art Deco interior design featuring vivid colours and a buzzy atmosphere. It feels exactly right where it is located in the heart of the CBD surrounded by the glitz of the high end designer shops like Louis Vuitton and Gucci and 5 star hotels.

The menu features Nyugen’s unique take on Vietnamese food that reflects the influences of growing up in Australia and his time spent in France through the use of imported herbs and ingredients, such as Wagyu beef, dill and salmon.

We began with the much talked about soft spring rolls with sesame seared salmon and salmon caviar. The addition of the salmon caviar added delicious bursts of flavour to this entree and the flavour of the salmon went really well with the dill in the rolls.

For mains we tried the much talked aboutBraised Wagyu Beef cheek in coconut juice, Phu Quoc green pepper, carrot, shallot served with Vietnamese baguette, and Grilled 5 spices free range chicken, fresh herbs, baby leek & thien ly flower.

The baguette served with the Wagyu beef was perfect to mop up the delicious and almost delicate sauce with the beef. I thought the beef needed to be cooked slightly longer because it wasn’t as tender as I would have expected and was still slightly chewy. The taste of the dish was very good and the carrots and potatoes stewed alongside the beef carried beautiful flavours. A side dish of vietnamese mint, lime and chillies gives diners the opportunity to add flavour to their taste.

The free range grilled chicken was absolute perfection though, perfectly spiced and juicy with flavour. The thien ly fowers with baby leek were an ideal combination – these edible flowers are sweet and taste like crunchy peas and are traditionally served lightly stir-fried in Vietnam.

Unfortunately we had no room to try dessert as much as I would have loved to try the Pandan Creme Brûlée or the Vietnamese Coffee Flan.

Overall it was a lovely dinner with a few rough edges including rather run of the mill service. A proper welcome to the restaurant and an explanation of the food concept would help new visitors or those unaccustomed to Nyugen’s style to better appreciate the menu.

I would still rate the experience highly as 4/5 and would go back to try those desserts next time I’m in town.

Home Finest, Saigon – a fine find indeed!

Managed to get a last minute booking into this highly recommended restaurant on TripAdvisor. It’s currently No 1 for Vietnamese food in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon and we can certainly attest to it’s well deserved reputation.

Set in a stunning modernist French Villa and with classic interior design of dark wood/black furniture, white walls, glass and plants everywhere, the restaurant draws you in from the moment you arrive.

Service is warm and welcoming. Anna who looked after us was very knowledgeable about the wine list and menu. She also told us a little about the villa and the local neighbourhood which was very interesting.

The food though is definitely a stand-out. We started with a deliciously hot-sour seafood soup, which was tart and tangy but mellower than a Thai Tom Yum, served elegantly in a coconut. We accompanied this with crispy pork and prawn wontons, served with a divine dipping sauce.

For mains we settled on stir fried duck with local basil and grilled eggplant with spring onion salsa with some plain rice. Both dishes were delicious with perfectly balanced flavours and complemented each other well. The crunchy peannuts in the eggplant dish really worked well with the silky texture of the steamed eggplant. (Anna made sure she checked with us at the start if we had any allergies. There is also an excellent vegetarian selection on the menu.)

We finished the meal by sharing the grilled banana rolls with sticky rice and delicious. Coconut cream sauce.

Going with a group to be able to sample more of the delectable menu is highly recommended …or just keep going back!!

Thanks again Anna and the team for a truly delicious dinner. We are looking forward to trying out Home Finest’s new restaurants in Hoi An and Hanoi as we continue our Vietnamese eating adventure.

Check out all details here: http://www.homefinestrestaurant.com

Ban Xeo Saigon lives up to Bourdain

This street food outlet in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City was made famous by Anthony Bourdain https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aI0u3eaQgcA in 2008. Renowned for their crispy Vietnamese rice flour crepes, Ban Xeo lived up to its reputation on our visit today. Of course it has now been discovered by tourists but the service and quality of the food has stood up to the test.

The ladies are still out the front cooking up a storm over the wood fire and prices are extremely reasonable. We enjoyed the experience and loved the crunchy crepes filled with shrimps, pork and bean sprouts and served with a delicious fish sauce dip and a mountain of fresh lettuce and herbs.

Get over the fact that it is now firmly on the tourist trail and try it when next in Saigon.

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