On the grill at El Gaucho

A pleasant downtown eatery mixing the Argentinian steakhouse theme with pork, chicken, lamb, homemade spicy sausage, skewers, burger dishes and everything that can come off a grill. The smaller downstairs and kitchen area is complemented by a no-smoking dining space upstairs replete with a bar and an outdoor terrace. Add to this bar-brick wall decor, light-wood tables and Argentinian themed photography on the walls and you have a well-rounded, popular restaurant only a stone’s throw from the Opera House.


5D Nguyen Sieu, Q1, Tel: 3825 1879 www.elgaucho.com.vn. Open 4pm to late 

Frog porridge, chilli crab and mee laksa... All at Lion City

Singaporean and Malaysian specialities fill the menu at this friendly, authentic five-storey Lion City eatery. Think the likes of nasi lemak, mee rebus, mee Siam, roti prata, awesome chicken curry as well as the specialities of the house — frog porridge, chilli crab and fish head curry. Does an efficient delivery service and has more restaurants at 701 Ba Thang Hai, Q10, 141 Nguyen Duc Canh, Q7 and 206 Cong Hoa, Tan Binh.


45 Le Anh Xuan, Q1, Tel: 3823 8371 www.lioncityrestaurant.com. Open 7am to 3am 

On the griddle

The work of the eponymous owner and head chef Chi Nghia, Papaya is one of the city's unsung gems. Tucked down a tangle of streets near the canal on the edge of District 1, the cuisine here is presented simply but beautifully with an emphasis on top quality ingredients. Prices are cheap, too, with mains going for well under VND100,000, and portions are also on the large side. Well worth a visit


68 Pham Viet Chanh, Binh Thanh, Tel: 6258 1508. Open 10am to 10pm. 

More cuisine from Papaya

Alibi and its mother of all lightboxes

Swathed in deep red and with dark wooden lightbox panelling, the addition of black and white Saigon street-scene photos gives this three-storey restobar an atmosphere of an upscale, sleek equivalent in New York or London. Choose between the shared-table downstairs bar area or the more traditional upstairs seating and a menu that blends small fusion cuisine style plates with larger mains and excellent gourmet pizza.


5 Nguyen Sieu, Q1, Tel: 3825 6257 www.alibi.vn. Open 10am to late daily 

La Fenetre Soleil - not just for models

Bare brick walls, art-deco repro furniture and a parlour-like elegance that brings with it all the glamour of old Saigon puts La Fenetre Soleil in a class of its own. Serving up a range of cocktails, imported beer, coffee and smoothies together with a Japanese-Vietnamese fusion menu, atmosphere and the slightly-off-the-main-drag location makes this a great spot to while away those afternoon hours or catch a night-time drink. Does a set lunch menu from 11.30am to 2pm.


2nd Floor, 44 Ly Tu Trong, Q1 Tel: 3824 5994. Open 10am to midnight.

On the table at Hog's Breath

The first Vietnam branch of the well-known Australian chain, Hog’s Breath mixes hearty cuisine such as pizzas, burgers, salads and prime rib steaks with a bar-like Australian sports atmosphere. Decked out in dark wooden furnishings with a long, easy-to-prop-yourself-up-at bar space, also has an outdoor on-the-street terrace, a mainly new world wine list and a large selection of both local and imported beers.


Ground Floor, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1 Tel: 3915 6006, www.hogsbreath.com.au. Open 11am to midnight

2 Lam Son in Ho Chi Minh City

Fridays and Saturday until 2am. Contemporary international décor blends seamlessly with local themes to create the most lavish but tastefully designed bar in the city. It may mean you have to pay five-star prices – the cocktails here go for over VND200,000 – but the monied-up punters still come in their droves. Easy listening, dance-style music plays over the sound system while drinks go from a range of Martini-base cocktails through to spirits by the bottle and 15 wines by the glass.


Park Hyatt, 2 Lam Son, Q1, Tel: 3824 1234 www.saigon.park.hyatt.com. Open 4pm to 1am.

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