It’s a bit late for the pan-Asia roti bun fad now, but it’s surprising just how many foreigners in town have never tried what is possibly the most delicious bread roll that exists. A counter-intuitive clash of supposedly incompatible flavours (coffee and cheese, of all things) the resulting crispy brioche was moving 20,000 units per bakery at the height of its popularity, and still has the power to tempt casual passers-by based on smell alone — the aroma tempting enough to spur impulse buying even by people who are not in the least bit hungry.

No stranger to being knee deep in shrimp shells on any given day, I was rather excited to be reviewing upscale seafood restaurant Song Ngu. In this town there are two ways to enjoy coastal cuisine — either in front of a cheap stainless steel table on the street or in high-end restaurants with expensive tableware. Song Ngu belongs to the latter. While a majority of my experience lies firmly in the former, the extensive menu presented to our party as we sat was a nice departure from the finger pointing ordering I’m used to.

 

It’s often remarked that being multi-talented or multi-functional is never anywhere near as good as being exceptional at just one thing. This is probably why Com Tam Nguyen Van Cu (167 Nguyen Van Cu, Q5) has managed to uphold such a fine reputation amongst foreign diners despite having one of the least extensive menus of any other popular restaurant in the city. Truth be known, there’s no physical menu at all quite yet, despite the restaurant having been in business for 20 years now — what you see on the counter is what you get.

 

Upon discovering I’d be reviewing a New York-style Italian restaurant, images of the rambunctious dining scenes from Martin Scorsese’s iconic 1990 mafia flick Goodfellas instantly came to mind.

 

Aesthetically, Zest is unlike any restaurant I’ve encountered in Saigon; a cross between a North American industrial warehouse (whitewashed breezeblocks, metal support beams and pillars, high ceilings) and a Scandinavian villa (wooden slats), making for an extremely open, cool and airy atmosphere. The wry foodie twist applied to the propaganda-style poster artwork painted onto the walls is equally unique, adding a slight kitschy feel to the surrounds.

One of Vietnam’s more unusual culinary creations received considerable international media coverage last month. Touted as Hanoi’s answer to Ronald McDonald, the VietMac (207 Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan, www.vietmac.com.vn) is a local reboot of the classic burger recipe — with two rice patties replacing the hamburger bun. Now that they’re being served in Ho Chi Minh City on the Phu Nhuan end of the airport road, it’s only a mildly expensive taxi ride to go and see what they taste like.

Peeping out from below Au Lac Saigon Hotel is Bahdja, Saigon’s first Algerian restaurant. Taken from the Arabic noun for ‘happiness’, Bahdja not only attempts to produce authentic, multi-ethnic Berber North African and Mediterranean cuisine cooked and served in a traditional Algerian style, but also a genuinely pleasant Arabic-influenced dining experience.

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