Vietnam has a rich and ancient culinary tradition. Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) prides itself on being one of the gastronomical centers of Vietnam. With its many street food vendors and restaurants, the city has seen the rise of a more diversified dining scene that goes beyond the traditional Vietnamese staples. We take a new look at some of best restaurants in town.
The Deck Saigon
The Deck is the only restaurant of its kind to sit on the banks of the Saigon River. 15 minutes away from downtown Saigon, it can be reached by land or by boat (the restaurant can organize for a boat to come and pick up guests from the city center). Visitors can dine on the elegant and cozy outdoor wooden deck. Over the years, the elegant restaurant has been praised and awarded as one of Asia’s finest restaurants. Executive Chefs Cao Lam Gia and Adrian Scott have designed a menu featuring contemporary pan-Asian fusion cuisine with an emphasis placed on simplicity. The best local and imported produce is sourced, including meat from New Zealand, seafood flown in from Phu Quoc Island and vegetables from Da Lat. Due to its unique location, The Deck is perfect for romantic dinners or for a lavish brunch with family and friends.
The Deck, 38 Nguyen U Di, Thao Dien, An Phu, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam + 84 8 3 744 6632
Nippon Izakaya Cuu Long
Dressed always in a neatly-folded head kerchief, Tomo Harada presides over his long maple bar with all the manner of a country doctor.
Perhaps that's because Cuu Long Izakaya has offered sanctuary to a tight crew of expatriate businessmen for over a decade.
The menu of homemade pickles, smoked tidbits (fish, bacon, chicken innards) and hearty rice bowls pair well with an impressive offering of sake, Soju and beer.
If you’ve worked hard, treat yourself to the seven-course chef’s choice (omakase) which may involve a grilled salmon head and a plate of homemade vanilla ice cream.
63 Pham Viet Chanh, Binh Thanh District, HCM City 0838409826
Housed in a beautiful colonial villa, May Restaurant serves Vietnamese food with a twist of French. May came to life when owner Tu Tho realized that the flavors of Vietnamese home-cooking she grew up with were not easily found in Ho Chi Minh City. May Restaurant only uses fresh and locally sourced ingredients and is against the use of MSG (monosodium glutamate). Signature include pink duck breast with ginger nuoc mam (fish sauce) and the more classic fried tofu with lemongrass and chilli.
May Restaurant, 3/5 Hoang Sa, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, +84 8 39 10 12 77
In a hidden courtyard high atop Ho Chi Minh City’s only hill, Takao Saito serves up a surreal homage to what he calls “reggae culture.”
The thin pink walls of Shanty hum with Saito’s collection of obscure ska, reggae and dance hall vinyl.
Dried palm fronds and fishing nets hang over the small indoor bar, which offers curious cocktails and homebrew.
His hand-written crayon menu centers on mildly-spiced jerk chicken legs and curries that range from pork to okra. Saito does not pretend to Rastafarianism (exhibit: booze and fried sausages); he just never really came back from his trip to Jamaica.
36 Chu Manh Trinh, District 1, HCM City (08) 62 908 484
Monsoon Restaurant & Bar Saigon
Monsoon is a rare find in Ho Chi Minh city, not many other restaurants serve five authentic regional cuisines – Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar under one roof. Owned by a Thai national, who has lived and traveled extensively in all five countries, Monsoon was born from a passion to bring to the aromas and flavours of each unique gastronomic tradition to Vietnam. The menu is divided by country, it includes an affordable set lunch option, and recently a Thai buffet has become available on Sundays. Aiming to be more than just a restaurant, the venue regularly hosts art exhibitions featuring emerging and established Thai artists, with the desire to create a platform for creative minds from both countries to meet and exchange ideas. Thai cooking classes will also be available in the near future. Set in a French colonial villa with a charming courtyard, Monsoon is a multi-sensory experience where food, history and art blend.
Monsoon Restaurant & Bar Saigon, No.1, Cao Ba Nha, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, + 84 8 6290 8899
Agata Japan Café
The Agata Café feels, at first, like something Tokyo set up to promote itself.
On a recent evening, a Japanese tea master dressed in an elaborate Kimono mounted the café’s loft to painstakingly demonstrate the proper way to receive and drink a cup of matcha.
On regular days, this quiet café offers a limited menu of imported tea and comestibles amid a traditional “Eel’s bed” home.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the star of Agata’s limited menu is a cut of grilled unagi served over rice and seaweed. The café throws in a sprig of cilantro and a pinch of crushed peanuts in a tasty appeal to local palates.
19 Dang Dung, District 1, HCM City +84 8 2263 7444
Pizza 4P’s is considered the best pizza in town, even by Italians. This says a lot about the delicious pizzas that this modern and understated establishment serves. However, it is more than just an Italian restaurant. Pizza 4P’s offers Japanese-Italian fusion food by respecting both culinary cultures. The technique for preparing the dough and the sauce follows the Neapolitan tradition. They import Italian meats like parma ham and make their own cheeses (including buffalo mozzarella, a rarity in Saigon). Alongside the Italian classics such as margherita, the restaurant serves creative Japanese sashimi pizza, Vietnamese four-flower pizza and teriyaki chicken pizza. Their take on this rustic fare is truly an experience that will not disappoint.
Pizza 4P’s, 8/15 Le Thanh Ton, District.1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, + 84 120 789 4444