City Pass Guide visits Ho Chi Minh City’s Gem Center to try out their top-floor establishment, The Log Restaurant in a fantastic winter-lodge-style setting.
The Log Restaurant is in a realm of its own: all-wood interiors, a chic bar-lounge overseen by two giant moose heads (a present from one of the managers’ friends) and a winter lodge aura and aroma that’s starkly out of place from the city’s usual restaurant environment.
The restaurant is located on the seventh floor of the Gem Center, Ho Chi Minh City’s flashy event and dining complex. It was developed by Vittle & Vino, a U.S.-based company, and is managed by PQC Hospitality, which is owned jointly by two buoyant twins – Billy and Henry. The Log hosts lunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every day, and features a three course set lunch (VND 210,000++ - VND 280,000++) and a la carte menu (VND 70,000++ - VND 390,000++) and is already open for dinner: 6:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. for a la carte (VND 80,000++ - VND 780,000++), and 6:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for the buffet (VND 1.2 million net per person, which includes free flow wine and soft drinks).
While the food caters to particular palates (you’ll get a sense of what you might like after reading the Experience section), the place is a worthy visit, even if only to sample the selection and soak in the unconventional atmosphere.
Toned down live jazz music flows like an undercurrent over the White Meranti floorboards, joining the low lighting to create an intimate space fit for laid back couples looking to chatter their evening away with some new world wine, or businessmen seeking a classy place to discuss matters in a less formal, more modish environment.
A persona flows from the restaurant’s aesthetic. The Log’s theme is “tree house,” but the place screams “rocky mountain lodge,” with an alluring and spacious interior composed entirely of wood. Walking up the restaurant’s steps from the sixth floor, you can smell the Meranti exuding from the walls, ceiling and floor. The two giant moose heads and idiosyncratic art pieces add a personal homey feel that goes hand- in-hand with the two eccentric managers.
The buffet area is well separated from the a la carte section, with rows upon rows of stations displaying fresh seafood on ice (brought over from Vung Tau and Phu Quoc Island), sashimi, dim sum, international fusion cuisine, a pastry counter (complete with chocolate fountain) and more, giving this side of the restaurant a more communal vibe that meshes well with families and groups of friends.
There are outside areas for both a la carte and buffet guests in two distinct settings – a garden milieu and a city-view area. The buffet is priced at VND 1.2 million per person and features over 120 dishes, including lobsters, oysters, prawns, crabs, dim sum, sashimi and much more.
You are greeted with smiles as you ascend the wooden steps to the restaurant, setting a respectable tone for the evening. The wait staff’s English may not always be fluent, but everyone is polite and tries to live up to the level the restaurant presents itself.
The Log Saigon's managers Billy and Henry sometimes make the rounds and ask how everyone’s enjoying their food, occasionally sitting down for a chat and a laugh.
The bartenders are knowledgeable in their spirits and serve a variety of whiskeys and balanced cocktails with finesse.
For our meal we dabbled in a few Western signatures, along with some standard items both sides of the globe might likely enjoy.
Here’s a breakdown of the food we had at The Log Restaurant Saigon:
Salmon salad (VND 180,000++): You are given a side of citrusy dressing for the salmon salad. The mixture may be spicy for some, and it’s best to first dab a smidgen of your greens into the dressing to test the waters. We found that the spiciness paired well with the salad when used in moderation. The salmon itself was soft, thin and a tad buttery, and the greens were fresh. If you find the sauce overbearingly zesty, ask for some olive oil or another dressing instead.
Baked chicken slice stuffed with foie gras (VND 350,000++): If you’re feeling a bit gluttonous, we’d bump this up to a must-try at The Log. The dish is comprised of several hors-d’oeuvres consisting of chicken strips hugging some viscous foie gras and a few bits of vegetables. The chicken is juicy, and the foie gras, if you’ve had a quality goose or duck liver spread before, is nothing too distinct, but the unctuous, melted filling goes well with the crisp chicken and vegetable bits.
Grilled rib-eye with miso truffle sauce (VND 420,000++): Opt for the rib-eye if you’re not a regular steak eater. If you’re hailing from the U.S., you might want to stick to the more seafood-centric dishes, since the portion size is average at best for an experienced prime beef eater. But we digress: our steak arrived medium rare, with a bit of mashed potato and sprouts sprinkled on top. The inside was nicely pink and a tad bloody, the texture itself was soft and the meat somewhat fibrous. We picked the black pepper sauce, but would instead suggest a Porto wine sauce, or asking the waiter for a bit of salt and pepper for seasoning.
Beef Wellington (VND 460,000++): The process that goes into creating the dandily-named Beef Wellington (makes you want to address it as Sir, doesn’t it) is quite elaborate. The Wellington is unassuming at first glance: a loaf of lustrous bread with some garlic cloves beside it, with a petite bowl of brown sauce on the side. The sauce is comprised of bone marrow and a wealth of other ingredients, steamed for 24 hours before being served. The inside of the Wellington is made of several layers of bread, mushrooms and beef. The meat is warm, tender and bloodless, and plays well with the softness of the mushrooms, the outside layer of brittle, crusty bread, and the thick, doughy bread directly underneath.
Rum truffle (VND 105,000++): A smooth, dark truffle winged with tall chocolate honeycomb wafers. The savory presentation is inviting, and the truffle doesn’t disappoint, with a thick, even texture and chocolate that is not overbearingly saccharine.
Out of 44 reviews on TripAdvisor, The Log Restaurant received 4 out of 5 bubbles. The reviews about the food are mixed – some love it and some not so much. The reviews for the atmosphere and décor are unanimously positive, and many times reviewers express awe upon first walking in.