One of the first Japanese restaurants to stake its claim in Saigon, The eponymously named The Sushi Bar is a master of what it specialises in — authentic Japanese sushi.
First opened in 1999 by Nagoya-born Mr. Nagai Shigemasa, who learnt his trade in kitchens in Osaka, The Sushi Bar started off as a modest outlet on Le Thanh Ton in Saigon’s Little Japan neighbourhood. However, as the restaurant started gaining popularity due to its high-quality sushis, sashimis and set meals, the demand got larger and new outlets were opened.
As of today, The Sushi Bar is 18 years old and has a total of eight outlets: six in Ho Chi Minh City, one in Binh Duong and even one in Da Nang.
This is a venue that has an extensive menu that includes bentos, rice and noodle dishes and various kinds of sushis, including Sushi Bar originals as well as assorted traditional sushi and sashimi options. If you’re not too sure what you want to get, The Sushi Bar will definitely have something for you.
In terms of ambience, The Sushi Bar resembles the Sushi bars you would find in Japan with just the right amount of space to move about and an interior that allows you to feel like you’re in Tokyo or Osaka, and not in Saigon.
It’s also probably one of the few Japanese restaurants where you’ll find a healthy mix of both Japanese expats and entire Vietnamese families at the dining tables.
It can get pretty crowded on weekdays but you should still be able to have a conversation with the person you’re enjoying your meal with, without having to repeat yourself.
The Sushi Bar is popular for their assorted sushi and sashimi sets. Here you’ll get a nice mix of colours and tastes that’s enough to fill you up for the day. If you want something unique, THE SUSHI BAR original dishes are worth checking out too. The Negi Sake Toro Maki Tempura (deep fried fatty salmon and spring onion rolls) is a pretty interesting choice.
For those who like their sushis rolled, the Ika Shio Kara Gunkan Sushi (salted raw squid gunkan sushi), Hotate Mentaiko Temaki (scallop and cod egg with chili hand roll) and Shako Tobi Mayo Temaki (mantis shrimp, fish roe with mayonnaise hand roll) are highly recommended.
Tip: The purpose of the pickled pink ginger slices that come with the sushi is to help you clear your palette. Take a slice right after you finish each sushi so you can fully enjoy the taste of the next one.
According to TripAdvisor, The Sushi Bar scores 3.5/5, with most of the comments highlighting the slightly higher than average pricing and the quality of the staff, most of whom seemed cold towards the customers without the usual “irrashaimase” greetings you would expect from Japanese restaurants.
But that aside, most reviews favour the quality of the food in terms of its freshness, presentation and taste, with a decent drinks menu to boot.
Tucked away at the end of a winding hem in the heart of the Japanese-influenced Le Thanh Ton street in Saigon, you’ll find Gyumaru Hamburg & Steak, an authentic Japanese steakhouse specialising in beautifully simple hamburger steaks, juicy and decadent hamburgers and pretty much every other grillable beef product, all served piping hot with a smile. If you’re in the mood for meat, this is the place for you.
Amidst the flurry of more traditional Japanese fare dotting Le Thanh Ton and the adjoining hems, Gyumaru, at first, might seem like a bit of an oddity. After all, how does a wagyu ribeye steak fit in with the sushi, ramen and clean eating that the Land of the Rising Sun is known for?
However, as soon as you approach the door, you immediately see that Japanese cuisine is more than just these traditional expectations. Before you even walk through the front door, you’re greeted with a large light projection on the ground with the silhouette of a bull’s face in the middle – kind of a Batman signal alerting anyone who walks by that this is the place to go for beef. If you’re drawn in by this – and you should be – your assumption will be confirmed.
However, the setup of Gyumaru isn’t the classical steakhouse arrangement you would find in the west. The atmosphere isn’t stuffy and the furniture isn’t dour and heavy; instead, walking through the long hallway and passing the kitchen staff, who cook in plain sight behind glass windows, the dining area contains multiple levels and a variety of seating arrangements.
Depending on your tastes and the number of people in your party, you can sit at a booth or a conventional table. Our waiter also let us know that seating is available on the second floor, although we didn’t get a chance to take a look.
While Gyumaru has other items on its menu besides meat, it’s clear that if you’re a vegetarian, your options here are limited. A variety of high-quality sides abound, like salty, crispy french fries and roasted vegetables, but here the high-quality steaks, hamburger steaks and hamburgers are the stars of the show.
During our dinner at Gyumaru, we tried two dishes: the 100 percent Wagyu Gyumaru Hamburger with Ham and Egg (VND140,000 for the burger and VND10,000 to 20,000 for the additives) and the Gyumaru Cheese Wagyu Hamburg Steak (VND200,000). Both were excellent choices.
For starters, this hamburger was not a dainty burger. Smothered in sauce and dripping with juices, this is a burger that requires about three hand wipes at the end of the meal. There was something supremely decadent about layering a slice of ham on a thick hamburger patty and then plopping a fried egg on top of that, but we’re not complaining. It came with a side of fries, which were an excellent complement to the huge burger. We could only finish half of this dish.
The hamburg steak was slightly less lavish, but equally as good. The refined and controlled cousin to the freewheeling hamburger, the hamburger steak was presented to us hot and sizzling on a cast iron serving platter, accompanied by a small heap of wilted spinach, roasted potatoes and sweet glazed carrots. The cheese on this hamburger steak was melted and contoured around the meat, and it all came with a small side salad and a ramekin of steak sauce. All around, it was a high-quality meal without being uncomfortably fancy.
People simply love this place. On Gyumaru’s Facebook page this restaurant holds an astoundingly high 4.5 star rating with 69 reviews, and on TripAdvisor 68 percent of reviewers have rated it “Excellent”. The things people love most? The food and the service. Most people agree that the servers at Gyumaru are smart, compassionate and extremely good at their jobs. When you pair this with amazing food and a laidback atmosphere, you have a recipe for a good lunch or dinner.
People don’t only come here for the steaks: the salads are good, too. The spinach and caesar salads are well-regarded, if you want a lighter dinner.
Fancy craft beers, fine wines, steak, carpaccio and Italian cooking with a Japanese flair? Time to save a date for Butcher MANZO & Craft Beer Bar, inaugurated in May of this year.
Located along the main stretch of Le Thanh Ton street, MANZO’s location is a match made in heaven. The area boasts Vietnam’s largest and most vibrant Japanese enclave with countless hotels, bars and eateries geared towards Japanese expats. Its classy interior is a marriage of Japanese simplicity and the cosy environment of a European beerhouse. MANZO is spacious enough to host private events for up to forty people.
Sporting an impressive bar counter with a total of 14 beer taps, it is the first bar/restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City to import the Japanese niku-baru (meat bar) concept to Vietnam. In fact, the word MANZO translates to ‘beef’ in Italian and that means that it’s proprietors and Japanese-trained chef are both passionate and serious about bringing the best renditions of well-prepared meat to guests. With these combined factors, we’re confident guests will enjoy MANZO as a place to relax and unwind over good alcohol and outstanding steaks after a long workday.
As the only steak establishment in Ho Chi Minh City to do in-house dry-aging, MANZO’s dry-aged beef including sirloin and tomahawk steaks are high-quality and surprisingly reasonably priced. The stability of numerous variables such as humidity, temperature and air-circulation are vital to this finicky process and the specialised dry-aging refrigerator used at MANZO ensures utmost precision and hygiene.
During the process of dry-aging, naturally-occurring enzymes break down muscle tissue and improve both texture and flavour as well as accentuating umami notes. This causes the steaks to lose approximately 30 percent of their original mass because a slab of dry-aged steak has to be trimmed of it’s dried exterior before cooking. However, this is a necessary to create the incredible flavour profile that is only possible with dry-aging. We honestly believe that this is a reflection of the spiritual and gourmet sacrifice that MANZO endures for it’s treasured diners.
As described by the proprietors themselves, “Steak perfection takes time”.
As with all respectable steakhouses, guests are able to choose the level of doneness for their steaks. But what sets MANZO apart from other places is the large variety of sauces and dipping salts that are offered with their steaks and other grilled delights.
Handmade red wine or white wine salts made from reducing wine and salt over slow fire is a statement of MANZO’s attention to details. What is truly worth mentioning is MANZO’s black beer sauce made with celebrated local craft beer brewer Rooster Beer’s signature dark ale. MANZO’s team endeavours to create their dishes from local raw ingredients as much as possible. Other sauces such as the blue cheese sauce and Japanese BBQ sauce are great choices for diners who enjoy more robust flavours.
MANZO also serves up a great variety of meaty starters and accompaniments which can be enjoyed as part of a full-course meal or simply as great finger food with wine and beer. MANZO’s assorted appetizer plate is stacked with a hearty serving of prosciutto ham, pâté and salamis. MANZO recommends ordering the homemade pizza-dough bread with this special appetizer.
If beef is not your thing, MANZO’s popular half chicken is another favourite. Rosemary, garlic and an in-house special sauce are used to marinate the chicken before grilling to assure a flavourful exterior and juicy interior. The homemade salsiccia (Italian-style sausage) is made with minced, onions and enhanced with a touch of cumin and oregano. Beef carpaccio and finger food such as deep-fried bacon rolled oyster are heaven-dictated pairings with MANZO’s alcohol offerings.
With a massive range of quality craft beers that appeal to a wide variety of palates, we consider MANZO to be a defender of the craft—deployed at the frontlines to assist the hardened artisan brewers who run the show backstage.
Veteran brewers including Pasteur Street Brewing Company, Tê Tê Brewing Company and Winking Seal Beer Company are well represented here and MANZO also takes pride in introducing newer brewers including 7 Bridges Brewing Company hailing from Da Nang city. The 7 Bridges’ Imperial IPA ‘Can Tho Bridge’ (9% ABV) is floral, citrusy and ridiculously refreshing for a strong beer.
Last but not least, MANZO also offers great lunch sets. The beef katsu cutlet coated with bread crumbs is fried to perfection, topped with demi-glace sauce and served with a choice of miso soup or soup-of-the-day and a choice of rice or homemade bread.
Butcher MANZO & Craft Beer Bar may be relatively new but reviews on Facebook, Google and TripAdvisor have been consistent. Many visitors praised MANZO for their wide range of beers and tasty beef that is infallible and exceptionally reasonable priced. A copious 400g portion of the dry-aged sirloin steak will come in at about VND760,000 and will fulfill a meat craving for even the biggest appetite. However, it is also possible to purchase MANZO’s premium tomahawk steak in the mega 1,200g size for the excellent price of VND2,640,000.
Our reviewers were impressed by MANZO’s select choice of craft beers and incredible food options. MANZO has effectively set a precedent that may startle many. Craft beers are no slouch as pairings for steaks even when faced with the politically correct choice of fine wines.
Jokes aside, there’s yet another fact that should not be missed: Butcher MANZO & Craft Beer Bar’s lunch, dinner and beer promotions (often up to 50 percent off for craft beers) are renewed on a regular basis so be sure to like and follow their Facebook page ‘Butcher MANZO & Craft Beer Bar’ for the latest updates!
MANZO is offering a special deal for City Pass Guide readers: For 10% off your total bill at MANZO, mention you read this article.
Tasaki BBQ luxurious restaurant serves authentic Japanese grilled cuisine. With 100 dishes to choose from, whether it is family or business partners to impress, there is plenty of choice for everyone. Their Wagyu beef is well recommended.
Yoshino Japanese Restaurant serves authentic Japanese cuisine with delicate traditional Omakase set dinners and an a la carte menu. Treats include seasonal fresh fish and Wagyu beef. Yoshino Japanese Restaurant is situated on the second floor of the five star Lotte Legend Hotel Saigon. House specialties include the shabu shabu hot pot (so nice they named it twice) and Kobe beef, imported of course.
Try the omakase set menu, a gastronomic tour de force that includes eight separate dishes ranging from raw fish and deep fried goodies to a tasty dessert. Japanese dining in Ho Chi Minh City may never get better than at Yoshino Japanese Restaurant.