Fine French Dining at Coco Beach Resort Mui Ne

By: Rob van Driesum

You’re spoiled for choice if you’re looking for somewhere to eat along the Ham Tien-Mui Ne strip. Do you fancy a Vietnamese meal? Take your pick from dozens of restaurants. Delicious local seafood? Easy. Steaks, hamburgers and kebabs? Check. Grilled lizard, snake or crocodile? Sure enough. Japanese, Italian, Russian or Thai? No problem either, including one of the very best German restaurants in all of Vietnam.

Oddly enough, a ‘genuine’ French dining experience was missing – until now. The Champa Restaurant at the Coco Beach Resort has come to the rescue with a completely new menu that focuses on fine French dining, and the restaurant itself has the ambience to match the experience.

Let’s go back a few years.

When Coco Beach Resort opened in 1995 as the first resort along the strip, its Champa Restaurant was open all day – more as a coffee-shop-type restaurant than for gourmet or fine dining. Then Coco Beach opened its Paradise Beach Club on the beach and began to use Champa as a more upscale dining venue, but it still had the old decoration.

At the time, chef Thierry Guineau was already training the kitchen staff in the principles of fine dining, and when he left in 2006 after six years at the helm, Champa continued to offer a ‘bourgeois’, Mediterranean-style cuisine.

In 2008 the Champa Restaurant was renovated from top to bottom. The narrow terrace doors made way for brick arches following Cham traditional construction, and over the years, carefully selected decorative items were added that reflect Cham culture. The result is one of the most pleasant dining areas along the strip – a mix of colonial-Vietnamese and Cham styles in a classy, airy environment where you immediately feel comfortable.

Thierry Guineau has now returned to Coco Beach, and the restaurant’s ambience offers the perfect setting for his focus on French dining, which matches fine dishes with relaxing conversation among friends – helped along by an excellent wine list.

Thierry maintains that he comes from an era when dining meant sitting down and taking time to enjoy meals properly – a factor that seems to be missing these days. “That is why I want to bring back the old French dining experience, where everyone gathers to enjoy one well-crafted dish after another,” he says. “In fact, the whole French dining experience is about togetherness in not just the eating but also the preparation and cooking of the dishes.”

If you feel like continuing the experience with your friends after that – and there’s every chance you will – head over to Dany’s Pub next door, a British-style pub that’s also part of the resort. Here you can play darts, shoot pool or watch sporting events on the huge plasma screen.

True French dining followed by a ‘proper’ British pub – where else can you combine the most attractive social experiences of those two countries?

58 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, km 12.6, Ham Tien, Vietnam
+84 252 384 7111, http://www.cocobeach.net

Chef Thierry Guineau

Thierry has over 40 years’ experience in kitchen and F&B management. With his passion for cooking and his numerous experiences abroad, which allow him to master cuisines from all around the world (French, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian), Thierry knows what it takes to win over local and international diners with authentic flavours.

Having worked at Coco Beach Resort from 2000 to 2006, he decided to gain more experience by joining the prestigious Starwood group, before coming back to lead the Coco Beach food and beverage team as Executive Chef. He not only brings back a true French touch to the Champa Restaurant but also manages the Paradise Beach Club by creating new dishes, supervising the staff and ensuring that proper hygiene is respected.


Mui Ne Xua: Phan Thiet’s Latest Food and Beverage Venue

By: Patrick Gaveau

Mui Ne Xua is Phan Thiet’s latest food and beverage addition and an interesting concept for a seafood market and restaurant - guests can choose their favourite seafood items live from numerous aquariums or on large tables in an open-air environment.

Mui ne Xua 3Variety, freshness and cleanliness are the cornerstones that make Mui Ne Xua so unique when compared to many of the nearby street stalls and eateries. Set amongst hundreds of palm trees, you’ll discover the elegant aesthetics of traditional, yet simple, designs. Materials used to build the hut-like structures include “Duoc” (Rhizophora in English), a local wood widely used in the area.

The vast and well-covered dining areas are set on intriguingly built red brick pavement, with large rocks used for walls and stairs elsewhere. The end product forms a harmonious relationship with the local environment and nearby sea.

Mui Ne Xua 2The best part, for me, is that once you have chosen your deliciously fresh crab, lobster, shrimp, fish, shellfish or otherwise, you can choose your own cooking options: grilled, broiled, steamed; the amount of vegetables, herbs, rice, sauces, etc; anything you might want.

Additionally, you can choose to cook it all at your own table, with your friends while sipping a fresh draft; or, if you prefer, you can have the kitchen do the job for you. And don’t worry, you pay only for the seafood you buy in increments of kg or grams - everything else (plus service) is included in the price.

Located on the hillside of Bo Ke, between Ham Tien and Mui Ne, this 4-hectare property has been conveniently restructured to welcome the masses. You can’t miss it; it certainly stands out as you drive by. For some, it is an attraction in and of itself. The recent soft opening was held mid-November 2013. Since then, the business has grown week after week.


The original concept, due to be completed later in 2014, includes the Forester Spa overlooking the facility from its location on a hill, a food court with 10 venues serving drinks and good food of various origins, and an amusement park for children. The shop and the pub are later additions still in the making.

Writer: Patrick Gaveau


Top 5 Seafood Restaurants in Phan Thiet

By: Steve Raymond

Phan Thiet was originally developed as a fishing community. Further development came when a number of fish sauce manufacturing plants opened in the city during the later half of the twentieth century, but the city only became a tourist destination in the mid-nineties.

As a result of the community's connection to, and dependence on the sea, the indigenous cuisine was mostly made up of the many varieties of fish, crustaceans and other marine life brought ashore daily by the local fishermen. This vast assortment of ocean life allowed the Phan Thiet community to be very creative and invent dishes unique to this part of Vietnam.

As tourism developed, so did the number and variety of seafood restaurants. Around the turn of the century, one restaurant became famous as the place to go for fresh seafood. Cay Bang Restaurant at the border of Ham Tien and Phu Hai wards became so popular that the parking area was seemingly always filled with tour buses from other parts of Vietnam. However, other restaurants began to compete. Since the clientele of Cay Bang was mostly large Vietnamese tour groups, it was not the most comfortable environment for individual diners or tourists.

seafoodImage source: caybangphanthiet.com.vn

There is a contentious debate about which seafood restaurant is the best, so I will list those that are the most popular with both tourists and locals, along with the pros and cons and let the reader decide which might be the best choice.

In 2007 and 2008, some resourceful fishermen and their families set up a couple of tables and a few chairs, plus some plastic tubs with live fish and a charcoal grill on government owned land in the centre of Ham Tien. These impromptu grilled seafood restaurants began to attract many tourists, so more families set up more restaurants. Soon, there were more than a dozen ‘Bo Ke Restaurants’ along the seawall.

seafoodImage source: balotrainghiem.com

The problem was that they neither had running water nor toilets, so the hygiene was very bad. Although they are still very popular, these ‘Bo Ke Restaurants’ are notorious for food poisoning and are best avoided.

In 2014 and 2015, some Mui Ne residents decided to copy the success of their neighbours in Ham Tien and began opening a number of fresh seafood restaurants near their sea wall, with a view of the town and the fishing boats docked at Mui Ne Harbour.

Unlike the ‘Bo Ke Restaurants’ in Ham Tien, those in Mui Ne were built on private land with running water. They comply with government regulations and they are regularly checked by the local authorities to make sure that they are following proper health and hygiene standards. As a result, the ‘Bo Ke Restaurants’ in Mui Ne don’t have the same frequency of reported instances of diarrhea or stomach problems as the ones in Ham Tien.

As for individual seafood restaurants, these are the best five according to popularity, reviews and the local community:

A third bo ke, or sea wall area in Phan Thiet that is famous for seafood restaurants is not along the coast, but instead, along the Ca Ty River in the city centre. Although there are a number of seafood restaurants on Pham Van Dong Street which runs along the riverfront, the Thuan Phat Seafood Restaurant at 109 seems to be the most popular.

seafoodImage source: vietnamcoracle.com

In Mui Ne ward, the most popular seafood restaurant is Lang Chai Quan at 173 Huynh Thuc Khang. Like Cay Bang, the majority of the customers are large Vietnamese tour groups, but unlike Cay Bang, it has a separate dining area in the front that is mostly suited for individual diners, so the ambience is more comfortable.

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Image source: foody.vn

The second most popular seafood restaurant in Mui Ne is filled with locals, rather than tour groups. Quan An Thinh Phat on Huynh Tan Phat Street is very good and the prices reflect the fact that it is more of a local restaurant than a tourist restaurant. The items on the menu are extremely inexpensive and the service is very good.

seafood
Image source: facebook.com

In Ham Tien ward, Lacheln Restaurant at 89 Nguyen Dinh Chieu below Mui Ne Hills Resorts seems to be quite popular and the reviews it receives on tripadvisor are generally very good.

seafoodImage source: agoda.com


Another seafood restaurant in Ham Tien ward that I particularly like is Hong Vinh 1 at 126 Nguyen Dinh Chieu. Although it’s a large open space without a lot of ambience, it sits at the water's edge with good ocean views. Both the seafood and the service are quite good.

Banner image source: vietnamcharmtravel.com


Top 5 Best International Restaurants in Phan Thiet

By: Steve Raymond

While there is no dearth of restaurants in Phan Thiet, almost all of the international restaurants are located in Ham Tien Ward. A few Phan Thiet resorts have very good international restaurants, but most of the resort restaurants are not particularly noteworthy. The majority of the independent international restaurants throughout the city are also not very exciting, but there are a few independent restaurants that are quite good.

The very best Indian cuisine is found at Ganesh Restaurant, 57 Nguyen Dinh Chieu in Ham Tien. Although there are a number of Ganesh restaurants in cities throughout the country, they are not all the same. They are all run by brothers or relatives in the same family. However, not all of the brothers have the same culinary ability. Having dined at most of the Ganesh restaurants in Vietnam, as well as at many other Indian restaurants both in India and around the world, it is my opinion that the Ganesh in Ham Tien is by far the very best.

international restaurantsImage source: tripadvisor.com

As in most major tourist areas around the world, Phan Thiet welcomes a large number of German tourists. Germany makes up the largest overseas market for a number of resorts, both in Ham Tien and Mui Ne wards, so it is quite understandable that good German food is available in the area. The very best German restaurant is Ratinger Loewe, 32 Nguyen Dinh Chieu in front of Cham Villas in Ham Tien ward. The overseas Vietnamese-German owner has hired an excellent German chef who prepares most of the items from scratch and uses only the freshest ingredients.

international restaurantsImage source: ratinger-loewe.com

By far the most popular restaurant on the Ham Tien tourist strip is Joe’s Cafe at 86 Nguyen Dinh Chieu. Besides the fact that it is the only restaurant that provides live music every evening throughout the year, the restaurant has some excellent American and Mexican dishes on offer. The half-barbecued chicken is my favourite, whereas my friends prefer Joe’s large hamburgers.

international restaurantsImage source: khaosanroad.com

The only really good international restaurant that is not in Ham Tien is Source Bar and Restaurant, located at 148 Huynh Thuc Khang in Mui Ne Ward. The outside terrace at Source offers diners an unobstructed view of almost the entire 60 kilometres of the Phan Thiet coastline, so even if Source did not have great food, the dining experience would be pleasant. However, the restaurant does make some of the very best pizzas and French Galettes in southern Vietnam, so the dining experience here is very nice. The best time of the day is just before sunset, as the views of the setting sun are unparalleled.

international restaurantsImage source: hostelworld.com

The best Italian restaurant in Phan Thiet is Santimatti. Located at 82 Nguyen Dinh Chieu across from the Blue Ocean Resort, the restaurant is owned by a long-time Italian resident of Phan Thiet and his culinary abilities place him on par with the very best chefs around the world. The restaurant has a wide selection of main courses, pasta dishes, pizzas and Italian desserts, all of which are some of the tastiest I have ever had the opportunity to enjoy.

international restaurantsImage source: pinterest.com

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