Marou chocolate is not new to Ho Chi Minh City, but Maison Marou Saigon is, relatively speaking. It opened in May 2016, a mere 200-metre walk (or drive! After all, we’re in Vietnam) from one of the city’s major tourist attractions: Ben Thanh Market in District 1. Call it a cafe, a patisserie, a bakery or a chocolate factory, but one thing’s for sure: Maison Marou Saigon is the place where you get the best locally sourced chocolate bars in Vietnam.
Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat is, you might have guessed from the name, a French-owned company. It was founded in 2011 by Vincent Mourou and Samuel Maruta. Now you also know why it’s called Marou. They set out to become the first Vietnam-based artisan chocolate makers (you can read their full story on the walls of Maison Marou Saigon), which is kind of a surprise given the tons and tons of cacao produced in this country every year.
The prime destination for cacao in Vietnam is, of course, the ever-so-fertile Mekong Delta, which is where award-winning Marou has sourced their cocoa from day one. Since each region in the Delta produces uniquely flavoured cacao beans, Vincent and Samuel paid tribute to this wondrous region by developing their signature product line: the Single Origin chocolate bars.
Every beautifully designed bar states the origin of the cacao, which allows customers to purchase a colourful range of one-of-a-kind tastes found across the Mekong Delta. And, just saying, these authentically Vietnamese chocolates also make for great gifts for friends with a sweet tooth. Check out their products here. Other than at Maison Marou, their products are available all over the city, most prominently at L’Usine, another coffee hot spot in Ho Chi Minh City.
But when it comes to chocolate, it’s all about the taste. And this is where Marou truly excels.
The New York Times – yes, THE New York Times – has dubbed Vincent and Samuel the makers of “the world’s most exquisite bar”. And they’re not the only ones to celebrate Marou’s chocolate wonders. But does Marou chocolate really live up to its reputation?
I have to confess that I’ve never been a fan of dark chocolate, and have always considered myself more of the milk chocolate kind of guy. True story: it was Marou chocolate that made me change my mind. Instead of the usual one-dimensional bitterness of dark chocolate, Marou manages to give their bars a hint of fruity and spicy flavours while they melt on the tongue. It might be a strange thing to say, but Marou chocolate tastes of Vietnam (thankfully not of downtown Saigon but, rather, of the lush Mekong Delta).
You get a threefold experience at Maison Marou Saigon. First, the location includes an actual factory where chocolate is produced, and you’re invited to watch the process of cacao beans being spun into premium chocolate bars. Second, you can, of course, not only try but also buy the sweet goodness. And we’re not only talking about the classic bars here, but also chocolate ganaches (which means you can use this soft chocolate as a glaze, icing, sauce or filling) and fine pralines. Third, this is also a coffee shop cum patisserie!
The concept is simple: come for the shopping, stay for the pastry. Maison Marou Saigon has made sure that their pastries reach the same, ultra-high standards as their chocolate. Cue their bakery manager who was trained as a pastry chef at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Plus, all their chocolate and pastries are made by 3-star, MOF-standard chefs. If you, too, are asking yourself what a MOF (“Meilleur Ouvrier de France”) is, here’s the answer. To make a long story short: it stands for top-quality French craftsmanship.
Macarons, pains au chocolat, cakes, cookies, brownies… pastries start at VND 70,000 here and they’re all worth the money, since the finest ingredients plus the outstanding know-how rarely fail to result in world-class products. For those who are not familiar with French pastry culture, we want to point out the eclair (basically a chocolate-bomb-gone-pastry).
Apart from the occasional complaint about the at-times sloppy service or average review, people on TripAdvisor support my claim that this is the definitive place to do your chocolate shopping in Saigon. Might we add that due to the large, 250-m2 space it’s housed in and the light colours of the decor, the cafe is not quite as cosy as it could be? However, this is sophisticated whining. Chocolate gourmets, be they Vietnamese, expats or travellers, can and should not miss out on Maison Marou for their own (and their friends’) good.
The “Signature Marou” at Maison Marou is a real crowd-pleaser. Bring a book, lean back and indulge in the best hot chocolate in town.