Sancho Cantina on Bui Vien in District 1 has given itself the tag of king of Mexicali food in Ho Chi Minh City since opening earlier this year. But if co-owner Calvin Bui has his way, Sancho’s will soon be the king of Mexicali food in all of Asia. They already make one of the best margaritas in Vietnam.

 

Sancho’s is at the quieter end of Bui Vien towards Cong Quynh. It’s cosy and seats 30 people at a stretch, but it’s one of the few places along the nightlife strip set back from the street offering space. It also has access via an alley beside it if the party needs to spill over into the street or you need somewhere to park.

 

Doing business along Bui Vien can be challenging given the competition and the sheer density of the area, but Calvin believes the food and drinks at Sancho’s speak for themselves.

 

Fiesta over Finance

 

After turning his back on a career in finance almost a decade ago, Calvin caved in to his passion for food, in particular Mexicali food, and has reinvented himself as a restaurateur.

 

Sancho’s is one of a number of Mexican restaurants opened recently in Ho Chi Minh City with its specialities originating from southern California where Calvin grew up.

 

“The growth in popularity of Mexican food here is exciting,” says Calvin. “It’s great to see Mexican food trending in Vietnam and we’re hoping to open in Danang and Hanoi in 2017.”

 

Hospitality Overload

 

By the time our first pitcher of margarita (VND300,000) has been downed, Calvin appears with the tacos. They are as colourful as his personality and have as much zing as his one-liners.

 

There are six on the menu to choose from — Baja-style fish, carne asada, grilled chicken, pork carnitas, ground beef and vegetarian. At VND40,000 each, they disappeared in a flash.

 

The Baja-style sea bass taco with cabbage slaw, citrus and chilli flavours set off a fiesta in my mouth while the freshness and texture of each tortilla with Sancho’s own spicy sauce was a highlight.

 

“We focus on fresh ingredients and make our own stuff daily,” says Calvin. “Our tortillas are made here each morning and while we import special ingredients from Los Angeles, everything else is from the local markets.”

 

Before we know it, there’s a shot of Two Fingers tequila (VND60,000) each in front of us and a line-up of Sancho’s own Phat Rooster ales starting from VND35,000 for a 330ml glass of Saigon Blonde.

 

Then comes the main dish. Two burritos, one ground beef, the other vegetarian. The regular size comes in at VND160,000, but for an extra VND50,000 you can go ‘Sancho-style’ with sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole, red sauce and cheese. Bring your friends. You’ll need them.

 

Sancho’s has all the other Mexican favourites, like fajitas, enchiladas, nachos and quesadillas. Keep an eye out for a lot of fun events soon like an all-you-can-eat Taco Libre night and a ‘Man Versus Burrito’ challenge. 

 

Sancho Cantina is located at 207 Bui Vien, Q1, HCMC and is open from 11am to 2am


Photos by Mike Palumbo

 

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