So, what’s on offer? Here are 80 of the now hundreds of restaurants serving up fare from around the world.
Words by Edward Dalton, Matt Cowan, Thomas Barrett and Nick Ross
Flair, gastronomy and some damn fine wine
Best known dishes
French fries, and that’s only because someone got the name wrong
Dish exported to Vietnam
The whole range — from steak tartare through to coq au vin, bouillabaisse and moules marinière
The nitty gritty
For those of you with a not-so-good knowledge of history, Vietnam was once a French colony. In fact, it wasn’t even called Vietnam at the time. You see, the French being the French gave it another name. Three separate names equating to three separate regions; Annam, Tonkin and Cochinchina.
Fortunately for Vietnam, the regions ended up being got rid of (note for history buffs: it wasn’t easy) and besides the odd wedding cake-decorated villa or 57, and the rather grandiose administrative building or four, Vietnam got left with French cuisine. So much of it, in fact, that many Vietnamese dishes today are actually derivations of French fare. Banh mi op la anyone? Or perhaps you’d like some ragu bo or maybe some bo sot vang.
To make amends, the modern-day French immigrant community are ensuring that this country is getting the real deal, with many a fine Gallic bistro and restaurant applying its gastronomic zeal to these tropical shores. Which means, we’re blessed with some phenomenal French fare.
1) Le Corto
5D Nguyen Sieu, Q1, HCMC
When Le Corto first opened, the restaurant-going public in Saigon who liked quality cuisine quickly took note. At the gastronomic helm was well-known and well-respected French chef, Sakal Phoeung, and taking part in the business was another well-known F&B professional plus two partners who for years have invested in the restaurant industry in Saigon.
The restaurant was named after Corto Maltese, a comic character created by Italian cartoonist Hugo Pratt in 1967. An adventurer, Maltese is elegant, cosmopolitan, passionate and has friends everywhere. It is this spirit that the owners attempted to bring to Le Corto.
With contemporary yet classic décor, the menu here winds its way from elegant dishes with some sort of combination of foie gras through to fish and seafood mains and, naturally, some of the finest steak dishes, French-style, in town. And don’t forget the desserts — to die for.
This is top-end French fare with a twist in an elegant yet relaxed setting. Corto Maltese would be proud.
2) French Grill
JW Marriot Hanoi, 8 Do Duc Duc, Me Tri, Tu Liem, Hanoi
They claim to offer an unparalleled service experience in a theatre of French gastronomy; and who are we to argue?
Since it opened, it’s won awards and cemented its position as one of the best restaurants in Vietnam. Head chef Jean-Francois Nulli, working in the largest open kitchen in Hanoi, crafts delightfully prepared dishes, shunning convention in favour of more creative options.
3) 3G Trois Gourmand
39 Tran Ngoc Dien, Q2, HCMC
Originally based in Tan Binh, Trois Gourmand has for years been one of the best, if not the best French restaurant in Saigon. White tablecloths, a multiple-course menu, a delectable garden atmosphere, the infamous scrambled egg with truffle oil and an amazing selection of home-made cheeses to round it all off. This is French cuisine at its finest.
4) La Verticale
19 Ngo Van So, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
La Verticale is one of several restaurants falling under the patronage of Chef Didier Corlou; the others being Bar-Rique Brasserie, Porte D’Annam and Madame Hien. Well known for his preference for mixing French ingredients with Vietnamese flavours, Corlou creates exciting menus mixing French classics with unique local twists.
5) La Badiane
10 Nam Ngu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Chef de cuisine Benjamin Rascalou has been fusing flavours and wowing diners at French favourite La Badiane since 2008. Featured in The Miele Guide’s Top 500 Restaurants in Asia, recommended by The New York Times and holder of five consecutive TripAdvisor certificates of excellence, the hype is well-deserved.
There aren’t many places offering such high-end French cuisine in a fine dining setting, for such a reasonable price. The décor, which underwent something of a facelift recently, is full of vegetation, white walls and a glass-covered patio.
Inspired by the Mediterranean region, much of the menu offers a fusion of ingredients and flavours from a variety of continents and countries, such as the grilled salmon in smoked paprika with zucchini and cauliflower cannelloni.
There’s a three-course set lunch menu for VND395,000, and the à la carte options come in at fixed prices of VND295,000 for a starter, VND595,000 for a main course and VND265,000 for a dessert.
3 Quang Ba, Tay Ho, Hanoi
When Cousins opened back in June 2014, it felt like a safe bet that it was destined to flourish. The French-inspired food was consistently on point, the staff were encouraged to be friendly as well as professional, and the weekly food specials kept things lively.
With new locations at 7/59 Dao Tan and 19 Doan Nhu Hai, and an Italian spin-off, Cugini (67 To Ngoc Van), just opened, four new restaurants in three years says it all.
The menu is a combination of French classics and well-known specialities from around Europe. Waving the Tricolore are dishes such as beef tartare (VND130,000), sole meunière (VND320,000) and the lemongrass crème brûlée.
For something from further afield, look for the lamb navarin pasta (VND210,000), the British-style fish and chips (VND140,000) or the Italian-inspired burrata and aged balsamic (VND260,000).
Each restaurant is uniquely decorated, with the locations at Quang Ba and Dao Tan both featuring large outdoor patios.
Stylish football players, wine and food made with passion
Best known dishes
As much as the Italians hate it, pizza
Dish exported to Vietnam
Pizza, of course, and something called mi y — the Vietnamese answer to spaghetti Bolognese
The nitty gritty
There used to be a saying among die-hard travellers. Everywhere you go in the world, you’ll find an Irish bar and an Italian restaurant.
Vietnam hasn’t done so well on the Irish bar front — only a few names (including the long-lost Sheridan’s) spring to mind. But when it comes to Italian restaurants, the country seems to shine.
It started with the Chez Guido Italian restaurant in the Hotel Continental Saigon that eventually became a delivery-only service, before folding. This was closely followed a few years later by the predecessor of Pane e Vino in Hanoi (name long forgotten). Then Gino Benelli arrived in Vietnam, bringing his cooking passion to what became Luna D’Autunno. Down south Pendolasco opened in 1998, with the restaurants Good Morning Vietnam and Pomodoro following closely behind.
Around the same time, Italian food was adapted to the local palate. Banh pizza was served in the top-end cafés and family-owned restaurants around Saigon and Hanoi, while the Saigonese adapted spaghetti Bolognese and made it into a dish called mi y — quite literally, Italian noodles.
These days Italian cuisine is everywhere in Vietnam — from the classic version through to the more contemporary — and it draws in customers of all shapes and sizes. If there is a type of cuisine that in the post doi moi era has been welcomed, loved and adapted by the Vietnamese, it is Italian.
7) Da Paulo
32 Quang Khanh, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Da Paulo has been a pizza delivery staple for years; consistent quality, fast and free delivery, and a huge selection of toppings have helped to secure this status.
However, this charming Italian eatery is more than just the ideal partner to a rainy night on the sofa with Netflix. The dine-in experience is just as good, and has been a West Lake favourite since 2010.
The atmosphere is relaxed, more like a trattoria than a fine-dining establishment. There’s a huge choice of Italian wines, and around thirty different pizzas to choose from.
If it’s a three-course feast you’re after, then look no further. The appetisers include Italian street food staples like arancino di riso alla Siciliana (deep-fried cheese and beef ragout stuffed rice croquettes, then topped with hot tomato sauce).
For your secondi, there are a variety of gnocchi, risottos and pastas; but the veal escalope (VND260,000) and salmon steak (VND310,000) may be too hard to resist.
8) Pizza Belga
225 Au Co, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Opened just a few months ago by Kevin Bourdeaux and Hai Linh Nguyen, this place is all about the wood-fired pizza.
The Pizza Emilio (VND220,000) is a real treat, topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, goat cheese, mushrooms, pancetta, garlic and olive oil. Look out for the homemade desserts and craft beer.
9) Luna D’Autunno
27 Nam Ngu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
No mention of Italian cuisine in Vietnam would be complete without including Luna d’Autunno. Opened in Hanoi in 1999 by Gino Benelli, a larger-than-life Italian restaurateur with a passion for Italian cooking, at one time he owned restaurants up and down the Vietnam coast. Although Gino passed away in 2013, his legacy lives on; the Hanoi restaurant is an institution, serving up excellent Italian fare in a trattoria-like setting.
10) Ciao Bella
11 Dong Du, Q1, HCMC
Ciao Bella is a New York-style Italian restaurant, which conjures up images of the famous scenes from Martin Scorsese’s iconic 1990 mafia flick Goodfellas.
Any Italian restaurant worth its crust should nail its pizza margherita, for a start, and Ciao Bella does so with aplomb. It rates as one of Saigon’s finest Italian restaurants, even if it’s a New York version of the real deal. It provides a combination of a genuinely friendly and attentive waiting staff, romantic ambience, and quality food.
36 Tong Huu Dinh, Q2, HCMC
Serving up quality Italian fare for almost two decades, Pendolasco is the oldest Italian restaurant in Saigon. Until recently it also boasted the longest running location — on Nguyen Hue.
After holding out during the period when the now-Walking Street was closed to traffic, and then giving itself a much needed refurb and facelift, Pendo has had to move all its operations to its District 2 location as space on Saigon’s most popular street becomes increasingly premium.
If that worries you, then don’t let it. The fare here remains as classic as it comes — excellent pizza and pasta, light salads and antipasti, as well as main courses you’d expect of every quality Italian. Add to this a constantly changing selection of specials that can include anything from squid ink risotto and ostrich carpaccio, Pendo has a bit of something for everyone.
One of the best Italians in town.
20 Hang Non, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay have helped to lift British cuisine out of the International Comedy Punchline Zone. In Hanoi, Gastro is also helping to spread the good news, by offering British gastropub-style food, featuring a number of British classics. Look out for the calamari (VND125,000), fish and chips (VND175,000) and Eton mess (VND95,000).
38 Quang Ba, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Home38 is normally the answer whenever someone enquires after a proper English breakfast in Hanoi. For just VND110,000, you can get a big plate of eggs, sausage, bacon, tomato, beans, hash browns and toast; a proper start to the day.
Ultimate British comfort classic bangers and mash is VND110,000. A lovely little café with a charming view of the lotus lake.
61 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Hanoi
A taste of Ukraine and Russia in Hanoi is what you can expect to find at Budmo. Set inside a cute little restaurant near West Lake, there are heaps of Eastern Slavic specialities to try. Don’t miss the solyanka (VND110,000), a meat-based soup with pickled cucumbers and sour cream.
15) El Loco Tapasbar
60 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Hanoi has had a few Spanish restaurants over the last few years; but the newest one is surely here to stay. El Loco pairs two Spanish chefs with a serious passion for cooking.
The extensive tapas menu is set to grow, but already includes sensational dishes such as the sausage with cider sauce (VND100,000), stewed chick peas and chorizo (VND100,000) and patatas bravas (VND50,000).
16) Ole Saigon
129B Le Thanh Ton, Q1, HCMC
Spanish patrons have a problem with Ole. It’s not the food — here everything from the tapas through to the paella and Galician-style octopus is fantastic. It’s the décor. For them it feels like walking into a tourist restaurant, such is the effect caused by the Spanish imagery on the walls and the nightly live flamenco. Yet Ole is a great purveyor of Spanish cuisine. And the sangria is good, too.
17) Cafe CCCP
48A Nguyen Binh Khiem, Q1, HCMC
The overall effect of Café CCCP’s decor is a simulated entry into our grandmother’s homely kitchen, if she was really into Russian decor of course. Red-and-yellow babushka dolls and propaganda posters line the walls. Try authentic Russian fare such as borscht (beetroot soup), pelmeni (dumplings) or blinchiki (pancakes). CCCP Saigon provides what it says it will, a taste of Russia in Ho Chi Minh City.
18) Le Petit Bruxelles
25 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Still going strong since opening way back in 2003, this little Belgian eatery may be on its umpteenth location, but it’s still a real gem.
Look for a wide selection of traditional Belgian dishes, such as carbonade (brown beer beef stew), jambonneau (braised pork knuckle with mustard sauce), and vol-au-vent (stewed chicken with carrot and mushroom).
And of course, there’s a good variety of Belgian beers.
19) Belgo Saigon
159 Nguyen Van Thu, Q1, HCMC
Belgo opened in Saigon late last year, and has since proved to be a popular space for those craving Belgian beer and food. With brick walls, large windows and a wrought-iron gate, Belgo has been built in the style of a country villa. Stocking more than 30 types of Belgian beer, they also serve delicious Belgian dishes like the hot flat bread tart and Flemish beef beer stew.
20) Hoa Vien
18 Bis Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1, HCMC plus four other locations
Drinking at Hoa Vien used to be the source of a pleasant, late afternoon joke — not because there was anything wrong with the place. Far from it. Before the arrival of craft beer, this Czech-style beer hall opened in 1995 ushered in a welcome era of micro-brewed beer accompanied by Czech, German and Vietnamese-style food.
The beer, brewed on the premises, was tasty and reasonably priced, the brass and wooden décor both traditionally Czech yet slightly kitsch, and the atmosphere could often get raucous. So raucous, in fact, that it was always best to get here early.
Rather, the joke came from Hoa Vien’s location on the same premises as the Czech Consulate. “Who else,” we would say, “would open a pub in the same space as their consulate?”
“Only the Czechs,” came the answer and an inevitable laugh.
These days the brauhaus has five locations throughout the country including two in Hanoi and two in Saigon. The secret? Well, go there and find out for yourself. You want to experience what it’s like to eat and drink in the Czech Republic? Hoa Vien is your place.
Did we say football?
Best known dishes
Sauerkraut, if you’re from the UK. Some of the best sausages in the world if you’re from everywhere else
Dish exported to Vietnam
Bratwurst, schnitzel, pork knuckle and yes, you guessed it, sauerkraut
The nitty gritty
Once upon a time, a certain hotel group in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 5 decided to hire a Swiss German general manager. He was the first of many Swiss Germans to grace this role at the Windsor Hotel. His influence, however, went further than just running the hotel. Together with his employers he helped open Gartenstadt, the first German restaurant in Vietnam. He was also responsible together with the German Business Association (GBA) for bringing Oktoberfest to Vietnam.
Not soon after some more Germans got in on the act, but in Hanoi with the opening of Legends Beer on Hoan Kiem Lake. This time round it was the German-style beer hall that took precedence, and together with the opening of the German Viet Kieu-run restaurant Kaiser Kaffee, then on Hang Be in Hanoi, the Germans had well and truly landed.
These days German cuisine has a big following, especially when it comes to the sausages, which are sold in almost every Vietnamese drinking haunt with a side dip of chilli sauce and mustard. Fortunately, for those who like more than just the hearty sausage, a number of German restaurants sell tasty Gothic fare. They do it well, too.
34 Dong Khoi, Q1, HCMC
With this 25-year-old institution on Dong Khoi, there is a distinct sense of walking into old-fashioned Germany. The wooden panels, long bar and the staff uniform draw in the local crowd on a weeknight. There is no modernist take on German food here, it delivers exactly what you expect. The bratwurst with sauerkraut and fried potatoes (VND220,000) is tasty, with a little kick of spice in the wurst. To finish it would be rude not to go for the apfelstrudel with ice cream and whipped cream (VND190,000). A real treat.
22) Cafe Goethe
56 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
Located inside the Goethe Institut (German cultural centre), this little café-restaurant offers iconic German dishes in a comfortable setting.
A serving of traditional goulash with noodles for VND215,000, bratwurst with potato salad is VND180,000 and chicken schnitzel with a baked potato is VND195,000. The food is hearty and the décor is bright.
23) Vesper Gourmet Lounge
Ground Floor, The Landmark, 5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1, HCMC
Opened by well-known German chef, Andy Ertle, Vesper serves up contemporary, tapas-style fare in an equally contemporary lounge bar style setting, much of the cuisine having a German twist. A great place for after-work drinks and late night shots, Vesper is also known for its excellent lunch menu. Check out their weekly offerings on their Facebook page.
Light, tasty, often seafood-based cuisine that is influenced by a proximity to the Mediterranean sea
Best known dishes
Anything from falafel to souvlaki, light Italian salads to carpaccio, grilled fish and couscous
Dish exported to Vietnam
Pretty much everything, although Greek fare sometimes gets short shrift
The nitty gritty
When it comes to Mediterranean cuisine, two restaurants, both in Saigon, have championed it more than anywhere else. First came Skewers, an eatery located in the former Expat Ghetto on Thai Van Lung. Fronted by Californian restaurateur Tristan Ngo, for years they were the only place serving up the likes of gyros, baba ganoush, moussaka, falafel and all things Mediterranean.
Then a certain restaurant called Au Parc came on the scene. Focusing on the lighter side of cuisine from the region, as they say on their website, “We are serious about the term Mediterranean here. We don’t just mean Spanish, French and Italian delicacies, we mean Mediterranean in the wide sense; Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Greece and more.”
These days a number of other restaurants have entered the market — most noticeably Lubu in Saigon’s District 2 and Saffron in the CBD. From how busy these restaurants are, it’s clear that Mediterranean fare is as popular as ever.
9A Thai Van Lung, Q1, HCMC
Another restaurant in District 1 that continues to win praise for its Mediterranean fare and chic dining ambiance, Skewers is well located to kick off a big night out with friends, especially with sharing plates and plenty of plonk to wash it down with.
51 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, HCMC
Saffron is one of those Mediterranean bistros with a menu that everywhere you look you see a winner, even the chicken liver crostini with peri peri sauce and rocket sounds like it would tempt the most timid of palates. Saffron has lamb shanks, beef cheeks, lamb koftas and souvlakis and your meal can be topped off with a Turkish delight creme brulée or a dish called The Pope’s Pillow, a puffed pastry filled with creme Anglaise and mascarpone with glazed strawberries.
26) Au Parc
23 Han Thuyen, Q1 HCMC
Consistently tasty Mediterranean café fare — think deli-style sandwiches, salads and mezzes, plus coffees and juices — served at a popular park-side Le Duan location with classic cream and green-tiled décor. In a Word reader’s poll in December 2016, Au Parc came second when we asked: Where is the best international restaurant in Vietnam?
97B Thao Dien, Q2, HCMC
Bathed in white, and with a pleasant outdoor terrace, Lubu is quintessentially Mediterranean, with an influence from that most Mediterranean of countries, Australia.
Sounds a bit odd? Well let’s get this straight. Thanks to large Italian, Greek and Lebanese communities, Sydney and Melbourne have a long tradition of serving up Mediterranean cuisine. It’s this tradition that Lubu has brought to Saigon.
But they’ve gone further than that. Here excellent but well-priced wine and quality drinks — from the Spanish-style gin and tonics and amazing bloody Marys — are part of the show, all helping to create an ambience akin to being somewhere by the sea. Oh, and have you tried their weekend breakfast menu? The green eggs and ham are to die for.
Anyway, back to the other food. Marinated chicken souvlaki, oysters, great tapas (try their albondigas and boquerones), handmade Toulouse sausages, king snapper pot pie, potato gnocchi with butternut squash, grilled Iberico pork chop… The list goes on.
This restaurant is good… Very good!
Fast food, supersize portions and bland flavouring
Best known dishes
Anything with the word ‘comfort’ in it
Dish exported to Vietnam
Did anyone say hamburger?
The nitty gritty
USA! USA! The yanks aren’t shy about shouting loud about how great they are, and their food is generally a reflection on the brash, in your face stereotype. However, the once dependably dull hamburger has taken on a gourmet revolution in recent years, with urban hipsters more likely to be nibbling on an anaemic flat-bread burger with 0% fat mayo served on a ‘rustic’ slab of wood. If you’re unimpressed with the humble burger’s identity crisis, then there’s still plenty of places in Vietnam that do it right.
Americans and Vietnamese have one major thing in common — they are both shameless carnivores, and there’s a wide range of places where you can indulge yourself like a good ol’ boy (or girl), meaning you won’t have to go far to get your steak or BBQ fix.
28) Elbow Room Bistro & Diner
52 Pasteur, Q1, HCMC
Party animals are grateful that this venue opens on Sunday mornings from 7.30am as it serves up one of the best eggs benedict going around. They’re also more than happy to accommodate fussy or cranky diners with slight alterations to their menu. But that’s not all. They’re open for lunch and dinner every day and with well-known chef Tristan Ngo running this joint, it’s been high on our list for years. Ask for the table by the front window.
29) S&L’s Diner
22 Bao Khanh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
When Steven Kaczerski and Loan Vu opened S&L’s Diner, they opened a portal to America right in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
The retro all-American vibe is courtesy of a vivid red-and-white décor, and American comfort food such as the Philly cheesesteak (VND145,000), biscuits and gravy (VND130,000), chicken and waffles (VND180,000), and proper apple pie (VND90,000) for dessert.
30) Quan Ut Ut
168 Vo Van Kiet, Q1, HCMC
It’s a no-brainer, right? American-style barbecue in a contemporary Vietnamese, quan nhau-style setting. Of course it is, which is why Quan Ut Ut is constantly packed with grill-obsessed diners going for the burgers, meats off the barbecue and craft beers served on tap. This place is very popular and hence busy.
4 Quang An, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Whether the names of the burgers are puntastic or a devastating dose of cringe is up for debate; the quality of the burgers is a constant we can all agree on.
Opened in 2015, Chops quickly secured a reputation for making some of the best burgers around. A second location soon opened in the Old Quarter, at 12 Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem.
All of the burgers are made using imported Australian beef and lamb, with all local produce 100% organic; and of course, all the buns are baked in-house every day.
The basic beef burger, The Chop, is just VND120,000. For something more interesting, the Wham Bam Thank You Lamb (VND150,000) combines lamb and feta tzatziki, while The Rolls Joyce pairs truffle bacon deep fried mac ‘n’ cheese with a beef patty.
Add a side of triple-cooked fries with truffle mayo (VND60,000) and a psychotic milkshake, such as the Dirty Tree & A Turd (VND110,000), which includes Jameson whisky, Baileys, milk and chocolate ice cream, topped with whipped cream and bacon.
32) Jake’s BBQ
50 Pasteur, Q1, HCMC
Jake is the man behind this much raved-about restaurant among expats and tourists alike. Located in one of the best spots in the city to settle-in after a long day’s work, closing a night out or simply attending to that nagging feeling of homesickness for good old American style comfort food, Jake’s is the place.
The portions of 100% US beef here are as big as his hospitality with massive servings of smoked meat plates, ribs, bacon, pulled pork and homemade pies. With a 4.9 out of 5 rating on Facebook and 4.5 out of 5 rating on Tripadvisor, the burgers and fries are deemed to be among the best in the city.
Now, as for the ribs…
33) Moose and Roo
42B Ma May, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi; 19 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Owned and managed by Keith Thibert and Tien Le, the Moose and Roo brand has been a welcome addition to Hanoi’s food scene for the last four years.
The first restaurant, the Moose and Roo Pub and Grill (42B Ma May), opened in 2013, and offered homely Western food in the middle of the Old Quarter. Two years later, and the Moose and Roo Smokehouse opened at the American Club (19 Hai Ba Trung) to set the standard for American-style BBQ.
At the pub, there are main courses like Aussie pie (VND250,000), Mom’s meatloaf (VND275,000) and the open-faced steak sandwich (VND245,000).
Over at the Smokehouse, smoked meats are the name of the game. Take a few friends and get the Al DeMatteis Platter, a steal at VND1,475,000. It feeds four to six people, and includes five side dishes, and some of everything from the smoker; sausage, pulled pork, beef brisket, BBQ chicken and pork ribs.
Both locations serve their famous buttermilk chicken wings, with a choice of sauces and dips.
34) Don’s Bistro
16 Quang An, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Headed by charismatic chef Donald Berger, this excellent West Lake restaurant and bar serves up international comfort food with a mid to top-end twist. One of the first restaurants to enter the area — the road wasn’t even built when they started construction — a number of international restaurant awards have followed. If you like your food tasty, your oysters fresh and your dishes to come with a touch of Canadian pizzazz — Don is from Montreal, after all — this is the place to go.
Mexico / Tex-Mex
Jumping beans, Mayan pyramids, camp wrestling costumes
Best Known dishes
Tostadas, quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, burritos, flautas and so much more
Dish exported to Vietnam
Mostly tacos, burritos and quesadillas
The nitty gritty
Famous for beach resorts and ancient civilisation, and infamous for drug cartels and easily-escapable prisons, Mexico has given some seriously good food to the world.
All the most common ingredients are largely native to Mexico, and include piles of corn and chilli peppers, tomatoes and avocados. On the sweet side, well, this is the country that gifted us chocolate (or rather, had it taken away by those pesky conquistadors).
The reputation for spiciness is well-deserved, and many Mexican dishes are defined by the chillies contained in the sauce, such as entomatadas, adobo and moles.
35) Anita’s Cantina
36 Quang Ba, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Anita’s recently turned one year old, making it the youngest of Hanoi’s Mexican restaurants. It’s incredible to think, then, just how popular this place has become in such a short time.
The Queso Grande, Javier Rodriguez, is serious about what he does; even though he still only does it four days a week. Anita’s is closed Mondays to Wednesdays, presumably to give Javier time to tame all those chillies.
Quality homemade food is guaranteed. The atmosphere is always lively, thanks to a large and loyal customer base. The all-outdoor seating, lotus-lake adjacent, is the ideal place to chow down.
Start off with some chips and queso (VND90,000) or a plate of green chilli poppers (VND90,000), and wash it all down with a margarita (VND120,000).
Regular tacos, all on homemade corn tortillas for VND30,000 apiece, come in carnitas, beef, pumpkin and black bean, bean and cheese or spiced potato varieties.
The same fillings can also be put into a burrito (VND120,000) or a naked burrito bowl (VND100,000).
36) Sancho’s Cantina
207 Bui Vien, Q1, HCMC
Sancho Cantina has given itself the tag of king of Mexicali food in Ho Chi Minh City since opening in 2016. But if co-owner Calvin Bui has his way, Sancho’s will soon be the king of Mexicali food in all of Asia. It already makes one of the best margaritas in town.
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.
Sancho’s has all the other Mexican favourites, like fajitas, enchiladas, nachos and quesadillas.
37) Hanoi Taco Bar
6 Dao Duy Tu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
If tacos alone aren’t enough to get your lazy ass off the sofa, then maybe the divine combo of tacos and artisan cocktails will be. Tacos range from VND35,000 to VND50,000, and include Australian beef, battered fish, Korean-style pork and vegan/vegetation options. Try the Manilla house cocktail (VND100,000), a meeting of bourbon, strawberry syrup, lime and Angostura bitters.
38) Salt N Lime
12 Tu Hoa, Tay Ho, Hanoi
The longest running Mexican joint in Hanoi is still going strong, thanks to custom creations like the smoked salmon tacos (VND50,000) and a selection of six salsas. There’s a kid’s menu, burritos, salads, nachos and fresh chips if the tacos aren’t doing it for you; and the margaritas come in four varieties, starting at VND70,000.
40 Lily Road, APSC Luxury Villa Compound, Thao Dien, Q2, HCMC
The relaxing vibes of the Boathouse in District 2 make this a popular place to grab a bite to eat, with superb views looking out across the river. Although essentially an American restaurant with dishes like nasi goreng thrown in, among the stand-out fare is the Tex-Mex; burritos, tacos, quesadillas and the likes. The spicy chicken wings are a particular treat.
40) La Habana
152 Le Lai, Q1, HCMC
Earlier this year La Habana came back from the dead after the building it had occupied for over a decade had a date with the wrecking ball. It’s pretty hard to come back from that blow but Jane and the crew have done it — La Habana is as good as ever. Throw in paellas, schnitzels and sausages, with long happy hours, live music and great service, and you’ve got a great night out.
41) Cuba La Casa Del Mojito
91 Pasteur, Q1, HCMC
Nicknamed Cuba by its legions of Latin music-loving patrons, this house of Cuban delights compensates for its limited floor space with its breadth and depth of nightly offerings. Happy hour starts at 5pm with concoctions starting at VND100,000, like the classic mojito, then slowly work your way to the wide selection of cocktails like the Papa Hemingway made with premium Flor de Cana 4YO white rum. The Cuban sandwich, ropa vieja and a variety of tapas by the only Cuban chef in the city always satisfies. It hosts dance classes four nights a week ranging from beginner salsa to variations of the genre like kizomba.
42) Au Lac Do Brazil
238 Pasteur, Q3, HCMC; 25 Tran Binh Trong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
How can a couple which is one-half Swedish, one-half Vietnamese run a Brazilian restaurant? The answer is; easily. In fact, they do it so well that Au Lac Do has now been running for close on 15 years. People loved the churrascaria, or barbecue concept, when Au Lac Do first opened and they love it today.
The focus here is the excellent grilled meats carved and served at the table by passadores or meat waiters. There’s a lot of it. From smoked hams and sirloin steak, through to lamb, shrimp, chicken and grilled pineapple. The offering is seemingly endless. In fact, it is endless as this is also part of an eat-as-much-as-you-want concept. Here you can stuff yourself with as much salad, rice, sides or meat as you like. So, expect to come away a little bit full.
Fortunately, Au Lac Do Brazil also has a good selection of Old and New World wines to help you wash down your food, although we reckon you should also give their caipirinhas a good go, too.
43) Rio Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse
10AB Thai Van Lung, Q1, HCMC
As a more recent addition to the limited selection of Brazilian restaurants in Vietnam, barbecue is the name of the game here, together with a buffet complete with salads and Brazilian sides. As with any other churrascaria, the charcoal-grilled meat is served at the table. Cooked up by two Brazilian chefs, Rio has gotten itself a reputation, and quite rightly so.
44) El Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse
74/1 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, HCMC
Check out their website for the full list of restaurants — elgaucho.asia
Steaks have always been a big thing in this country — people just like to eat beef. But by serving up USDA certified steak, grilled Argentinian style in an open kitchen, when El Gaucho first opened they revolutionised the industry. Suddenly, the quality of steaks was upped a notch or five. Fine, you had to pay for it, but it had all the other steak restaurants scrambling to keep up. And then there is the service; at El Gaucho it’s exceptional.
45) Al Sham
300 Vo Van Kiet, Q1, HCMC
Al Sham has only been open about six months and already it’s hard to get a seat around lunch and dinner times. Last time we visited, the Syrian owner threw his arms in the air (fortunately no one was skewered at the time) in exasperation because he thought only the local and travelling Muslims would be interested in his food. Instead, he has people from all walks of life — including Vietnamese — going out of their way to gorge on probably what is the best hummus you’ll find in Saigon. It’s all fresh, at a great price, and reminds you of all those joints back home serving up Middle Eastern fare. Our prediction is that Al Sham will skyrocket into contention as one of the must-visit restaurants in Saigon, and before long it will (if it hasn’t already) outgrow its pokey little space.
46) Picante Latino
5 Xuan Dieu, Hanoi OR 52 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Home to a number of Peruvian classics, such as ceviche (VND135,000), lomo saltado (VND295,000) and steak with chimichurri sauce. Other Latino-style dishes include enchiladas and tiradito. The ambiguous address is due to a planned relocation to make way for renovation work, so check online before going.
The Middle East
47) Chabad House
5A Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q1, HCMC
Vietnam has a fair selection of halal restaurants, but Chabad House — a Jewish centre with a second location in Hanoi — is the only place that serves it up kosher. Unfortunately, there is no menu available online, but we know they serve up some excellent Israeli-style falafel and the other fare is likely to have an Ashkenazi slant — chicken soup with kneidlach, latke, chopped herring, bagels and lokshen.
48) Beirut Garden
74/13D Hai Ba Trung, Q1, HCMC;
According to its website, Beirut offers up a Mediterranean fusion dining concept serving up delicious authentic fresh cuisine together with shisha, drinks and live entertainment in an “Arabian Nights atmosphere”. We’ve been there, and the belly dancers certainly help with the ambience. However, what’s most impressive is the Middle Eastern food. On our last visit, it was phenomenal.
Central & South Asia
Being one of the most captivating places in the world
Best known dishes
No, it can’t be curry, can it?
Dish exported to Vietnam
Pilau rice. Yes, that’s it!
The nitty gritty
Thanks to the former French colony of Pondicherry, Indian cuisine has been in Vietnam for well over a century. During the colonial era, it was the French-Indian migrants who ran the banking system. Naturally, with them they brought temples and cuisine.
In more recent times, however, we can thank four restaurants for helping spread the cuisine. In Hanoi and Saigon — Tandoor. In Saigon, Ashoka and Saigon Indian. And finally, a restaurateur rather than a restaurant, Gopi, the man now at the helm of Hanoi’s Namaste.
The difficulty for Vietnamese palates with Indian food has always been the texture. They struggle with it. But as Vietnam has opened itself up to cuisine from all over the world, so an increasing amount of locals are going Indian. All meaning that one day the Vietnamese national dish might just end up being curry. Now, wouldn’t that be a fine thing.
38 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, HCMC
When Ganesh opened at its original Saigon location, it quickly became known as the best Indian restaurant in town. It was that good. After moving to Hai Ba Trung, it’s maintained its prominence. Even Trip Advisor agrees, giving it a 4.5 rating out of five, and that’s after 436 reviews. What’s our opinion? It’s still as good as it was, but thanks to Ganesh’s high standards, the competition has got better. Thank you, Ganesh!
46 Tho Nhuom, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
In Hanoi city centre, Namaste has been churning out halal-only dishes for years. The menu features northern curries, hot and spicy southern soups, the Mughal-style cuisine of Hyderabad, and Gujarat-inspired sweets. And of course, there’s a proper tandoor oven, so all of those kebabs and naan breads are charred just right. Don’t miss the mutton kadha masala (VND148,000).
51) Foodshop 45
59 Truc Bach, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
Opened in 2002, Foodshop 45 was the first Indian restaurant with a Vietnamese owner at the helm. And haven’t they done well?
Originally located in Chau Long Market, the present, bamboo-inspired location on Truc Bach Lake was commandeered in 2006, and has been serving up fine, North Indian-inspired fare ever since. To this day, it’s a popular spot.
Aloo ghobi mattar, dhal makhani, chicken vindaloo, vegetable jalfrezi, fish curry, kalmi kebab, prawn pakora — the full gamut of fare is on the menu. But what is most unusual is the inclusion of beef and pork. Yes, beef and pork. It’s a departure from your standard Indian offering, but why not? After all, the owner is Vietnamese, so why not change things up a bit?
52) Baba’s Kitchen
164 Bui Vien, Q1, HCMC; 232-242 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, HCMC
If you know Baba’s Kitchen then you’re likely to know its boss, Robin Babu. A restaurateur and a body builder, out of nowhere Robin has built up one of the best Indian restaurants in Saigon. Indeed, many an Indian customer swears by the place; always an excellent sign.
Serving up a seamless mix of South and North Indian cuisine, we personally have a penchant for their dosas — the best we’ve tasted in Vietnam — and their vegetable chettinad. They also do a fine chicken vindaloo and Kashmiri rice.
If you like your thalis, then pop down for lunch. And if you’re into the buffet, it’s upstairs in the Bui Vien branch at the weekend.
In fact, everything is good here. Considering that Robin once worked in IT, he’s made an excellent crossover into another industry. So good, in fact, that he now has a second restaurant in Thao Dien and a third in Hoi An.
Pakistani cuisine varies too much from region to region, it would be impossible to summarise it as a whole; suffice to say, it’s going to be halal, aromatic and possibly spicy. Many dishes contain masses of oil, to make the food seem richer and fuller. Popular spices include cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, turmeric and nutmeg.
50 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Handi serves up Pakistani, Indian and Middle Eastern food, with all meat coming from a halal supplier. Delivery is an option, which means you don’t need to go far to enjoy dishes such as the vegetable karahi (VND110,000), chicken boti roll (VND82,000) or the mutton sheekh kebab (VND177,000).
54) PK Spice
10 Hang Manh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
This place is all about the Afghani, Pakistani and Indian speciality dishes. With such a diverse menu, and vegetarians well-catered for, everyone is welcome. Start off with some vegetable pakora (VND60,000) or a daal soup (VND50,000), before setting on a fish krai (VND80,000 / half portion).
55) Asian Streat
151/6 Dong Khoi, Q1, HCMC
This little pan-Asian place specialises in Sri Lankan cuisine. As far as we know it’s the only place in town that serves up hoppers, a circular basket-like pancake made from fermented rice and coconut milk served with chicken curry or fish with ambul thiyal — a sweet and sour condiment with a tamarind base. Asian Streat also has an awesome lunch buffet served up by Hazmi, the manager, who quite possibly has the biggest smile in the business to match the lunch spread.
Being the holiday destination that Vietnam so wants to be (without the seediness, of course)
Best known dishes
It’s gotta be pad thai, right?
Dish exported to Vietnam
Pad thai and all the fine Thai curries
The nitty gritty
For years, except for the fare at Golden Elephant and Malee Thai in Saigon, Thai food in Vietnam was dreadful, particularly in Hanoi. The reason is that there’s a subtle difference in flavours between Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, so subtle that it was often just not bridged.
The change started with the opening of Coriander on Saigon’s Bui Vien back in 2005. Then Hanoi more recently got Gusto Thai, an upgrade on anything seen in the past. Now, certainly in Saigon, a number of restaurants sell the real deal, but getting there has been tough.
One of the problems is that despite the proximity of the two countries, many of the key ingredients need to be imported. Another reason is that while lemongrass, chilli, coriander, Asian basil, fish sauce and tamarind are present in Vietnamese cuisine, they are used in different ways and in different quantities in Thailand.
If you want your fix of all things Thai, it’s still better to pop over to Bangkok for the weekend. But these days you can get a decent version of the real thing in Vietnam.
56) Quan Ngon Thai
56/52 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Opened in August, this place has a Vietnamese cook who is well versed in Thai cuisine. The bun thai, or tom yum noodle soup, is a modest VND30,000, while Thai hotpot starts at VND195,000. Other specialities include the beef pad thai (VND65,000) and pad kra pao with pork (VND65,000).
57) Gusto Thai
9 Phan Chu Trinh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi; 14 Lang Ha, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
Green papaya salad, stir-fried minced pork with Asian basil, tom yam soup, chicken panang curry, deep-fried sea bass, pad thai and green curry. All the offerings of a typical Thai restaurant are served up at Gusto Thai, the first Thai restaurant to get the cuisine close to correct in Hanoi. It’s not spot on, but considering the previous offerings in the capital, it’s a step in the right direction.
58) Golden Elephant
34 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, HCMC
Good luck finding their facebook page!
In a city bereft of quality Thai options, Golden Elephant makes it on the list as just about everyone’s favourite Thai restaurant — if you like the food classic, that is. It’s more like a pokey cafeteria than a restaurant, but don’t let that deter you. Its popularity is underscored by the diversity of the clientele feeding their faces here, from locals, expats to travellers.
59) Racha Room
12-14 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, HCMC
Serving up Thai-accented pan-Asian cuisine with a focus on high quality ingredients, Racha Room makes Thai street food with a twist. Duck curry, coconut salmon, prawn dumplings and much more, mix with some of the best cocktails in Saigon. A lounge bar and restaurant all in one, Racha is a much-loved Saigon establishment.
60) Koh Thai
Saigon Garden, 99 Nguyen Hue, Q1, HCMC
Koh Thai has a growing quorum of restaurants in Saigon, but their flagship is in Saigon Garden on Nguyen Hue. A cocktail bar, lounge and restaurant all in one, here the name of the game is cosmopolitan Thai cuisine served up with a touch of Bangkok chic. Expect traditional fare prepared with a contemporary and often unusual twist in an attractive environment.
Ah, Singapore, the self-proclaimed food capital of Southeast Asia, the home of chicken rice, laksa, frog porridge and chilli crab, the go-to destination to experience the archetypal food court. Singaporean cuisine has come and gone in Vietnam except for one restaurant, Lion City. A shame, really, because one of the beauties of any visit to Singapore is the food.
61) Lion City
45 Le Anh Xuan, Q1, HCMC
Fronted by the charismatic Harry Ang, Lion City is the bastion of Singaporean cuisine in Saigon. Now with a number of restaurants dotted around the city, as well as an eatery in Hanoi, this is the place to get your Singaporean-style Hainanese chicken rice, your chicken curry, kaya toast, laksa, bee hoon and green beans cooked up with sambal. For the full list of restaurants check out their website — some of the dining is top-end. We, however, love the original Lion City on Le Anh Xuan.
62) Hai Su
111 K1 Giang Vo, Dong Da, Hanoi
This cramped and crowded little restaurant is one of the most popular places in the city to find Singapore-style clay pot rice. There’s only two types, with black pepper beef or char siu-style pork; but they’re both very good (VND75,000). The rice forms a crispy layer on the bottom, and each portion is generously loaded with meat and veggies.
Despite having such a large Malaysian community in Vietnam, this country has struggled with Malaysian cuisine. On the one hand, you have the hybrid Indian street food that was once sold in the Dong Du Mosque in Saigon and Bombay Indian opposite. Both have since closed. Then there’s the rice-style fare, nasi campur. A few restaurants close to Ben Thanh Market in Saigon and on Dong Du serve this up, but it’s not done well, although the Singaporean-themed D’Lions in Hanoi does a decent job. A shame, because Malaysian street food is among the best in Asia.
R1-72 Hung Gia 2, Q7, HCMC
As its name suggests, this venue has become the loyal friend of many a thirsty barfly roaming the backstreets of Phu My Hung. Over two floors, Confidant offers Vietnamese, Malaysian and Singaporean fare in a convivial family-friendly atmosphere. Challenge Ludwig, the owner, to a game of darts — he might just throw in one of his own infamous limoncellos as punishment... err, as a freebie.
Said to be not for the faint of heart, diabetics and those watching out for their cholesterol levels, Filipino food is actually more than these disclaimers and clichés suggest. Moderation is the key when your palate heads down to the equator and roams the seven thousand islands of the Philippines. The fiesta that awaits you combines centuries fused with local and colonial flavours that take the best from Chinese, Malay, Spanish and American with the Filipino ingenuity for appropriation and unparalleled hospitality.
64) Loriekot’s Lutong Bahay
193 Dien Bien Phu, Q3, HCMC
Celebrating four years of operation this November is the “little jeepney that can”, going full steam with different Filipino food favourites on rotation from traditional savoury pork binagoongan (pork with shrimp paste) to the unusually sweet children’s party style spaghetti (with red hotdog). Loriekot’s also takes orders for homemade peanut butter and sweet rice cake desserts — sapin-sapin, maja mais, kutchinta and more. A weekly balikbayan box supply of branded comfort cravings from the Philippines — Purefoods corned beef, crispy pork rinds, Choconuts, Flat tops, Chippy and other snacks your grandmother told you not to eat back home but can’t live without as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) — is always available.
37 Xuan Thuy, Q2, HCMC
Rocking the newbie restaurant cluster in District 2 is Casba. If you don’t mind having “too much on your plate”, this could be the place for you. The Filipino fare on the boodle table has the regular offerings of bulalo (bone marrow soup), kare kare (stewed oxtail, tripe with peanut butter) and bicol express (spicy pork with coconut milk) — although the menu is balanced with more continental French and German fare. Casba is also becoming a regular hub for weekend outdoor movie screenings, pool parties, corporate events, charity and community talks.
25 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Batavia occupies a large dining space on Xuan Dieu, where you can find pretty much any Indonesian dish you could hope for. There’s been a recent addition of a rotating daily set lunch, although the huge choice of a la carte options may be hard to resist. Try the beef rendang (VND175,000) or the ikan balado, deep fried fish in spicy padang sauce, for VND165,000.
East & Northeast Asia
Terrible pop music, shoddy electronics and fat dictators
Best Known dishes
Kimchi, BBQ, bibimbap, bulgogi, japchae, tteokbokki, gimbap, jjajangmyeon, banchan
Dish exported to Vietnam
Gimbap, jjajangmyeon, BBQ, kimchi, bibimbap
The nitty gritty
First things first, Korea doesn’t exist. South Korea, officially, the Republic of Korea, is where all the bad music and electronics comes from.
North Korea, also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is where the fat dictators with bad haircuts live. But one thing’s for sure; they both share a love of spicy, sour cuisine. No meal on the Korean peninsula is going to be missing kimchi and a large selection of banchan (side dishes).
In Vietnam, there are generally two types of Korean restaurant. The first type deals with the indoor BBQ, where marinated meats and seafood are grilled at the table, usually ordered from an all-you-can-eat set menu with a number of sides also available.
The other type is usually focussed more on noodle and rice dishes, and of course, many metres worth of gimbap.
67) Pyongyang Restaurant
28 Nguyen Thi Dinh, Cau Giay, Hanoi
This is actually a chain of restaurants operated directly by the North Korean government, with over 130 restaurants in countries around the world — they’ve also got one in Saigon. The food includes Pyongyang specialities such as cold noodles, cuttlefish and dog meat soup; but you can also find other, less interesting, dishes. Expect entertainment in the form of singing and dancing by numbers.
15 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi
A small and modest restaurant with a varied and extensive menu. The selection of gimbap starts from VND40,000, while the regular bibimbap is just VND65,000. There are meal sets starting at VND70,000 where you can also find options such as the bulgogi beef stew.
69) Galbi Bros
R1 — 25 Hung Phuoc 4, Q7, HCMC
Standing out from the plethora of Korean BBQ joints in District 7 is Galbi Brothers, whose regular promotions and buffet set menus from VND200,000 to VND550,000 keep regulars coming back. Don’t feel like working for your meal? Ask the friendly staff to help cook it for you. Two highlights of this place are real charcoal stoves and open-air seating suitable for those just starting out their evening who don’t want to smell like gogi-gui at the nighclub door.
70) Plan K
14A5 Thao Dien, Q2, HCMC; 66 Ly Long Tuong, Q7, HCMC
Plan K customers compliment its bright restaurant atmosphere and tons of banchan (side dishes) that come with high quality meats from Australia and the US that customers can choose fresh from a display counter presented on a clean and beautiful wooden cutting board. The enterprising owners of this Korean BBQ chain have a well-established Vertical Marketing System (VMS) controlling the whole supply chain from producer, wholesaler, and retailer that will impress the most discerning of meat lovers.
If there is one type of cuisine that we at Word struggle with, it’s Japanese. Not because we can’t eat it — far from it. The food itself is exceptional; but there are now so many Japanese restaurants in Vietnam, somewhere around 500, that the problem is knowing where to start.
71) Sushi Dokoro Yutaka
95 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi
An estimated 100% of the population agree this place does some of the best sashimi and sushi around. Try a sushi set, starting at VND178,000. As with other popular Japanese restaurants, you can get a good amount of hot food here, such as katsu curry (VND147,000) and stewed tofu with pork (VND126,000).
72) Asahi Sushi
288 Ba Trieu, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi
This popular Japanese joint is an ideal pre-cinema restaurant, located as it is on Ba Trieu. One of the best places to get fresh sushi and sashimi, there’s also an extensive selection of hot food, such as tempura, rice, grilled meat and fish, plus a good amount of udon and soba noodle dishes.
73) Pizza 4Ps
8/15 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, HCMC; 24 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Not a Japanese restaurant as such, Pizza 4Ps is nonetheless an important addition to this list, because they have done what the Japanese do so well; take an international dish and serve it up with a Japanese twist. So good are the pizzas and such is the attention to detail that for three years in a row this chain of restaurants has come top of our best international food in Vietnam list.
Vietnamese cuisine is heavily influenced by food north of the border. Add to this a million ethnic Chinese living in Ho Chi Minh City and growing expat populations from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and you’ve got a lot of demand for Chinese cuisine in this country. So much that we can only touch the surface of what’s available.
74) Fu Rong Hua
9 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
One of the best places for Chinese food with some Hong Kong specials, this restaurant feels classy, without the classy price tag. For Hong Kong style, you can’t go wrong with BBQ pork (VND145,000) and roasted duck (VND165,000). For dim sum, Teochew-style meat and vegetable (VND55,000 / 3pcs) are something special.
75) Tim Ho Wan
Floor 36 Lotte Centre, 54 Lieu Giai, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
Related to the Michelin-starred Hong Kong restaurant, though without a star itself; the food here is still just as good as the view from the 36th floor. By far the most popular dish are the baked buns with BBQ pork (VND82,000), but the steamed dumplings are just as good; especially the spinach and shrimp (VND66,000).
76) Ocean Palace
2 Le Duan, Q1, HCMC, Tel: (028) 3911 8822
There are many Chinese restaurants serving up dim sum, but when it comes to price and quality, Ocean Palace is our Saigon favourite. Elegant décor, efficient service, a lively atmosphere created by the large dining area and an exceptional selection of lunchtime dim sum. If you want a Saturday or Sunday brunch with friends at prices that don’t break the bank, here is the place to go. Just remember to book in advance, as it gets busy.
Making up new sports as they go along
Best Known dishes
The Barbie. And in case you ask, it’s nothing to do with Ken
Dish exported to Vietnam
Australian takes on British, Greek, Lebanese and American food. And something called ‘the pie’
The nitty gritty
Australian food, what is it? Ask most Aussies what it is and they’ll probably come up with pavlova, that sticky, sweet dessert of meringue with fruit and cream named after a touring Russian ballerina (Anna Pavlova) who visited Australia and New Zealand the 1920s.
Ask any Kiwi what New Zealand food is and they’ll probably come up with the same answer, pavlova. Neither country can really stake claim to it, so we’re left with two nations whose culinary habits have been heavily shaped by immigration.
Before European colonisation, Indigenous Australians lived on native flora and fauna that has made its way onto restaurant tables in recent times, especially native fruits and “bush tucker”, aka kangaroo. In between the two world wars the Greeks, Italians and Germans brought with them their cuisine which has had a profound impact on Australia’s culinary landscape and culture — at one stage spaghetti bolognaise was unanimously voted Australia’s national dish and the most likely meal to be dished up by bachelors hoping to get laid on a date.
Since then, immigration from Asian nations has sparked another round of cultural readjustment with young Aussie kids these days more likely to ask for a sushi roll than a ‘dog’s eye’ (meat pie).
33 Dong Khoi, Q1, HCMC
Been around for as long as anyone can remember. Jaspas in Saigon has recently had a makeover and it’s all the better for it. Upstairs is for non-smokers and has a great vantage point to look over one of the most famous streets of Saigon. And as for the food, this is Australian to the core. Quality international comfort food that runs the gamut from salt and pepper squid and hickory pork ribs through to nasi goreng, halloumi chicken burgers, pizza, salad and spaghetti vongole. Has a well-known sister restaurant in Hanoi.
78) Game On
115 Ho Tung Mau, Q1, HCMC
An Australian sports pub serving up comfort food, Game On is a favourite of the Australian community in Saigon. One reason is the televised sport. Another is the atmosphere and the food — and a lot of it has got the Antipodes written all over it. An Aussie sandwich, anyone? Or maybe an Ozzy dog, Aussie chips or an Australian-style home-made pie. Not much of the food that comes from Australia is original, but where it is, at Game On, the management make sure you know about it.
46-48 Ton That Thiep, Q1,HCMC
From its roots as the famed Café Latin, Phatty’s has become the go-to, Aussie beer-guzzling sports-viewing emporium, showing everything from international cricket to Aussie rules and serving an array of pub grub favourites. With a solid reputation for big portions and tasty fare, this is Australian comfort food at its finest.
44 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, HCMC
Truly spectacular steakhouses remain rare, but there’s a new contender; Stoker Woodfired Bar and Grill. Named after an eccentric 19th-century British nobleman, it’s a restaurant already much talked about for its dim-lit elegance and clubby comfort, its sophisticated staff, and its divine meat.
As with other great restaurants, Stoker reaches beyond providing food. It can be a sanctuary, a time apart from the stress of the world to simply gratify one’s senses. It can be costly, but you can hardly do better in Ho Chi Minh City for an evening’s escape. Oh, and did we mention the gin and tonics and the cocktails?