After all this time, I really don’t know why I’d never eaten at Lu Bu in Thao Dien. Perhaps it’s because I’m from Melbourne. I’m a Mediterranean food snob and don’t believe it’s possible to have that kind of quality here in Saigon. Mostly because the culture surrounding Mediterranean food just isn’t the same in Saigon as it is in Melbourne.
However, Lu Bu has changed my mindset. You can get great Mediterranean food here after all. Lu Bu has three souvlakis on the menu, my benchmark dish for determining how good a Greek-influenced Mediterranean restaurant actually is.
The marinated chicken souvlaki (VND160,000) comes with hummus, tomato, cucumber, garlic sauce and zhoug — a hot and spicy chilli pepper relish — on Lu Bu’s freshly made pita bread.
Sounds great doesn’t it, but how could I pass up the marinated spicy lamb leg souvlaki (VND220,000) with hummus, tomato, cucumber, minted kefir — a slightly sour, thin yoghurt-like mix — and pickled chilli, again served up on that pita bread that Lu Bu does so well. The other option is vegetarian (VND180,000) with hummus, olives, feta, tomato and cucumber.
On the starter menu - pita and hummus
Sharing is Caring
The souvlakis are served for sharing, like much of the menu at Lu Bu. The pita lies flat with the ingredients neatly organised on top. If it weren’t that I actually had to share the thing, I would’ve rolled it up and scoffed it down with both hands.
The lamb is tender, the hummus moist and the salad fresh. Fresh lemon quarters on the side mean you can tang things up a bit and have your souvlaki reminding you of the Greek isles in no time.
The only downside to Lu Bu’s is it’s extremely difficult to decide what to order. The wait staff were patient with us as we deliberated over the menu and changed our minds time and again. Perhaps they could’ve been a little more helpful in offering suggestions, though.
One of the problems for us was that there are so many great starter options to choose from before you get into the mains. Also, if you’re not well-versed in the culinary lingo of the Mediterranean, it might pay to do some research before you arrive.
There are oysters Kilpatrick at VND250,000 for half a dozen, tapas (50% off on Fridays) ranging in price from VND80,000 for marinated black and green olives to VND280,000 for serrano ham drizzled in olive oil with house baked bread.
On the starters menu there’s a tapas plate (VND350,000) with grilled chorizo, olives, boquerones — a European anchovy — honeyed eggplant, pan con tomate, pickled octopus and mojama, the salt-cured Mediterranean tuna delicacy.
Between our pita bread with hummus and zhoug (VND100,000) and our lamb souvlaki (VND220,000), we downed a Bloody Mary oyster shooter each (VND40,000) as you do on a Friday evening to get things rolling.
The oyster shooter
The Moroccan vegetables
The main course and grill menus again created a dilemma. There are only about 12 items to choose from, but we wanted a piece of them all. Eventually we settled on the Moroccan vegetables (VND240,000) served on a bed of couscous that might just be the best I’ve had anywhere. It’s light and fluffy, but moist enough not to fall off your spoon and dissolves in your mouth upon entry, unlike other varieties I’ve experienced that have felt like you’ve just shovelled in a mouthfull of sand. The zucchini, eggplant and tomato were neither over or underdone, and the Moroccan spices weren’t overpowering.
For drinkers, Lu Bu’s wine list is epic with no less than 80 wines to choose from, something you’d expect from one of the owners, who happens to be a sommelier. There are both old and new world wines starting from VND90,000 to VND220,000 per glass and bottles from VND450,000 to VND6.35 million for a 2005 Torbreck shiraz from the Barossa Valley.
To top off an excellent dining experience in a restaurant that’s light and airy with a lively family atmosphere that all good Mediterranean tavernas should aspire to, we chose the orange and dark chocolate canoli (VND150,000) which left me in no doubt that Lu Bu is at the top of its game in Saigon. Next time, I won’t leave it so long to return.
The orange and dark chocolate canoli. Photos by Bao Zoan
Food, Decor and Service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15.
13 — 15 extraordinary to perfection
10 — 12.5 very good to excellent
8 — 9.5 good to very good
5 — 7.5 fair to good
0 — 4.5 poor to fair
The Word reviews anonymously and pays for all meals