Even if you’re not vegetarian yourself, you’ve perhaps tried shepherding a vegetarian friend through Vietnamese cuisine. While the more flexible may be able to turn a blind eye to an occasional dab of fish sauce, finding reliable meat-free dishes can be something of a crap shoot.
Britain’s prime contribution to world cuisine, deep-fried fish in batter (usually haddock or cod) accompanied by chunky fried potato chips has had a home in Ho Chi Minh City since in the form of JJ’s Fish and Chips since 2013. Starting out as a street stall in Bui Vien, JJ’s now has its first “chippie” restaurant in the city.
If you’re looking for tradition with your dim sum, don’t bother going to Phat’s Dumpling House in District 2 because that’s not what it serves. Instead, Phat’s serves a modern interpretation of dim sum that works.
Stacked above Maison Marou Chocolate, Café-Restaurant occupies a sought-after location in a French colonial building on Calmette. With a spectacular view over Ben Thanh Market and the northwestern part of District 1, the building has been carefully restored and preserved. It’s a combination of old architecture and contemporary décor, with traditional tiles interleaved with a modern resin floor, oak furniture with blue cushions, large windows and classic hanging lamps.
Ke Quan fills a niche in Tay Ho, where street food abounds, but quality, affordable Vietnamese fare with style is missing. A joint project between Cesar Aubry of Le Soleil, Bui Thi Dong Thanh, or Te, of Ray Quan, and designer Ha Huu Tam, the place is as diverse as its ownership.
On a quiet Hanoian street in an unassuming green restaurant, Giang Nguyen surveys her little diner from behind the serving hatch. She is the type of restaurant owner who loses sleep if a customer is less than satisfied. At May Taste (18C, Dang Thai Mai, Tay Ho), however, this rarely happens.
An interesting touch to the recently opened Spice Temple is that the whole ground floor is reserved for motorbike parking, which is rare in the golden area of Saigon. Just a few metres off Nguyen Hue walking street and set in a three-storey building, Spice Temple oozes modernity and elegance through the use of subtle lighting, high windows and wooden geometric wall decorations.