Lavastone Restaurant

food - Saigon/HCMC: July 13, 2016

It’s hard not to feel excited looking at Lavastone’s gorgeous menus and leather-covered cocktail book. From head to toe, the restaurant knows how to present itself well. Large portions and moderate prices fit the “Japanese street food” idea that the eatery takes very close to heart.

Lavastone Cocktail Book

Lavastone took several concepts and somehow made it work. The overarching theme is Yakiniku - meaning “grilled meat” in Japanese. The food comes in larger portions than higher-end Japanese restaurants, but the quality and price remain at good levels. The drinks are nearly on par with The Racha Room and 2 Lam Son in terms of creativity and attention to detail, but once again, quality and price remain respectable.

Ambiance

The industrial decor is presented extremely well here. Cement floors, wood tables, black support beams, and red brick cover the ground floor, creating a raw but modern ambiance. The second floor tones down the industrial elements in exchange for a much more Japanese low table and wood floor setup that is quite atmospheric and even romantic at night, with hanging lamps at the far end casting soft light on the dining area.

The venue was designed by Singapore design giant Kingsmen Creatives, and recently got ahold of the silver prize in the A.R.E Design Awards. Ambiance is definitely a highlight of Lavastone.

Service

Young, professional staff are attentive and speak enough English. If you want drink recommendations, don’t be shy to question the bartender - he’s knowledgeable and has a good knack for what he does.

Ice tea is refilled frequently, wait staff are polite but not all over you and management is eager to create an experience for anyone that sits down. Definitely on the better end of service in Saigon.

Food & Drinks

The drinks here are not a gimmick. The leatherbound cocktail menu gives this fact away, with detailed story descriptions of home-envisioned drinks along with the ingredients. The familiar concept of “traditional Vietnamese ingredients” and “Western spirits” is the base of all the drinks here, but these are not classic cocktails with sugarcane sticks stuck in.

Drinks are not only pretty to look at but made to complement the Japanese dishes (besides the Golden Experience, which is a digestif cocktail). The menu items come out on the same quality tableware you see in the menu. The presentation is far from lacking.

The table is set with Japanese soy sauce for the sashimi, Himalayan pink salt for wagyu beef, tare for beef and green chili for seafood. A nice surprise is that all the sauces are homemade.

We began with Salmon Sashimi (VND119,000) - five thick (street-style) pieces of fresh, buttery salmon; for the price and the quantity, it’s good. This was followed by an Avocado & Shrimp Salad (VND75,000) with shrimp slices, avocado and a good dose of delicious sesame dressing.

The Cajun Shrimp (VND209,000) is the restaurant’s best selling dish. The sauce is Cajun and butter, a bit spicy and a great companion to the small baked potatoes, corn, and giant river shrimp nicely arrange over it. These shrimp are much tastier and fresher than at the many places that use frozen crawfish instead. It’s a messy, flavourful dish. The shrimp go well with the homemade green chili.

All meat is imported from the U.S. or Japan. You get your own grill with any Yakiniku order, and cook the raw meat to your liking. We sampled two meat dishes: Wagyu Sirloin (VND549,000) and Boneless Short Ribs (VND179,000). The boneless short ribs were very tasty with the tare, but the wagyu surpassed it. A bit oily, a bit fatty, and much more prone to melting in your mouth, the wagyu is a delicious, buttery cut for anyone who enjoys meat - dip it in the pink salt (just a bit) for a better bite.

On the drinks end, we sipped a Room 105 (VND150,000), named after the hotel room it was thought up in. Lavastone’s best seller, Room 105 features four fruits, including jackfruit-infused rum and kumquat juice. It’s frothy on top, with a smooth consistency and not-overly-sweet flavour that goes down almost too easy - nice for both guys and girls.

The Golden Experience (VND150,000) is a digestif and aperitif cocktail made with, among other components, campari, smoky whiskey and coffee-infused sweet vermouth. It’s like an easy-going, aromatic Negroni with hints of coffee beans. It’s quite refreshing after a big meal.

What Can Be Improved

Difficult to say, as for this price, the value is there, the drinks are unique and well made, and the atmosphere is solid. If we had to pick on something, the portions of raw meat could have been larger for the price appointed.

What People Say

Currently Lavastone has 4.5 bubbles on TripAdvisor with 10 reviews, and so far people are loving the BBQ dishes, the cocktails and the attentive staff. Foody.vn has more reviews, averaging a 7.8 quality rating. People mention favourite dishes being the Cajun Shrimp and the Wagyu Sirloin, along with Muoi Ot, Sam Bo Luong and Xi Muoi on the cocktail end. People on Foody.vn dig the decor as well.

Local Insight

Happy hour is Buy 1 Get 1 Free from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Also, paying with certain Citibank, VIB and HSBC cards gives you a discount, as does checking-in on Facebook and Instagram.

Contact information:

Address: 96B Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, D1

Opening hours: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Phone: +84 28 6271 3786

Facebook: facebook.com/lavastonebbq