Something you may not know about Vietnam’s unofficial tourist capital: its epicurean scene has boomed over the last decade, offering tourists a swathe of options ranging from easy eats to multi-course degustation experiences, available almost all the time. Put the scene to the test.
Let’s ignore the fact Noir is rated #1 of 2,546 restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City (TripAdvisor) and say the concept alone makes it a must-try. You’re dining almost entirely in the dark. Understandably, the lack of lighting means staff will have to aid you in ways to which you’re not accustomed (it begins with a lot of cutlery hitting the floor and being lost for the remainder of the night), but you’ll get world-class assistance when you need it, and quickly.
Noir is fun; the western menu is fine, if propped up a little by the sensory deprivation schtick. Give it a go if for no other reason than the story you take home.
La Villa is expensive Michelin-grade gastronomy in a colonial-style villa. Opt for a table in the fairy-lit garden. A night of haute cuisine in Ho Chi Minh City promises the usual suspects like pan-fried foie gras, lobster, duck, and all manner of pureed vegetables, which is to say you’re guaranteed bang for your buck. The wine list is predictably massive and reservations are best made before you leave.
Tender and juicy are the steaks at El Gaucho, a grillhouse whose menu is governed by Argentine recipes and flavours. The Argentinians do steak well, and an outing here is perfect if you want something to break up a tourist diet of pho and banh mi. The menu is so exclusive it’s unavailable online, but, like anywhere in the world, ‘scotch fillet, medium rare” will get you where you need to be.
Shri Restaurant & Lounge
Rooftop dining and an eclectic “produce of the world”-style menu make Shri a novel way to experience Vietnamese hospitality. Canadian scallops with crispy chorizo; crispy egg custard-style tofu; foie gras terrine; serrano ham with poached eggs; what the place lacks in thematic consistency it makes up for in sheer boldness of flavour.
With tenacious adherence to authenticity and a spectacularly refined range of simple wok-fried eats, Royal Saigon combines the simplicity of the street food movement with that convivial shoulder-to-shoulder atmosphere for which the Vietnamese are renowned. Dine in close quarters with your friends; share dishes; make it the start of a night on the town. Start with the ga xien que – juicy chicken skewers – and a plate of crispy fried wontons; from there, let your imagination guide your appetite.