Stepping into the dining room of Spices Garden, the Metropole Hotel’s Vietnamese restaurant, one is enveloped in Indochine elegance, from the dark wood furniture reminiscent of yesteryear to suspended silk lanterns in subdued hues. The service mirrors the ambiance — thoughtful, unobtrusive and charming.

Eon 51 offers an elevated dining experience — quite literally. The restaurant is an expectation-raising 51 floors up in Ho Chi Minh City’s iconic Bitexco Tower, and while getting there isn’t as straightforward as you might think, the reward for navigating the building’s car park, escalators and two changes of lift, is a view that few else can offer. With it comes an obvious sense of occasion. But be warned, expensive views don’t come cheap here.

With our mystery diner taking a well-needed summer hiatus, this month we send Noey Neumark to Hanoi’s latest purveyor of the mighty pizza, Papa Roma. Photos by Julie Vola

Three-month-old Mountain Retreat is the newest addition to the stable of mom-friendly restaurants such as Secret Garden, Quan Bui and Cuc Gach Quan, which offer simple yet tasty Vietnamese fare in a homey, unpretentious setting. Mountain Retreat’s spin is on northern Vietnamese food, claiming the Ha Giang style’ — at least according to a sign on the way in. It’s the kind of place you’d bring your hygiene-obsessed parents to if they came to Saigon and were too afraid to eat street food, but still wanted to sample Vietnamese cuisine.

“What is this sauce?” Red Door owner — and our night’s host — Hien asks.

A rattling in the distance. The restaurant stirs and shakes, dishes quivering and voices chattering. The rice wine flows and everyone takes position, ready to clink shot glasses. The train clobbers by. “Chuc suc khoe!”

Checking the TripAdvisor listing for Tapas Saigon, we ran into an eyebrow-raise. The 10 reviews produced a decent overall of 4.0, but near the top was a one-star review, which pointed out how most of the other reviewers were first-timers. Scrolling down the list, we saw this was true — until we came to two laudatory reviews at the end, both written in Spanish.

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