Bloom Saigon Restaurant

Housed in a beautifully restored French colonial villa down a dimly lit alley, Bloom Saigon restaurant serves you healthy Vietnamese cuisine in Saigon with a French twist; namely, French-trained chefs concoct mouth watering dishes using top quality meats and no additives such as MSG. Try the soft shell crab in tamarind sauce, fried tofu with lemon grass and fish with passion fruit sauce, all superb. The atmosphere and service is charming, comfortable and relaxed at Bloom and balances the elegant fare on the menu. Definitely one of the rare gems in Ho Chi Minh City.

Bloom Restaurant serves a sumptuous selection of dishes from within a quaint setting in an old colonial villa in Ho Chi Minh City. Staff is welcoming and attentive. The food at Bloom is delicious, fresh and flavourful. Delight in menu favourites such as baby squid in tamarind sauce; tempt your tastebuds with a delicious dessert such as fried banana with home made ice cream. When in Saigon make sure to treat yourself to a meal at May.

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Southern Vietnamese

Southern Vietnamese cuisine relies heavily on sugar and spices and an abundance of herbs and fresh vegetables. This is not a problem in Ho Chi Minh City, as the tropical climate nurtures a long and plentiful growing season, sometimes two. Dish preparation is simple with many cooking techniques borrowed from neighbouring Cambodia, China and Thailand. To sample a taste of the south, read below.

Banh Xeo: These fried pancakes are made of flour, egg and salt. They come stuffed with meat, vegetables, prawns and pork, accompanied by herbs and garlic/chili infused fish sauce.
Bun Mam: The sausage of Vietnamese soups made with everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. Ingredients include shrimp paste, aubergine, squid, prawn and much more. Be warned, it's not for the squeamish or those with a sensitive nose!
Canh Chua Ca Loc: This sweet and sour fish soup is a visual feast with red, green and white colours floating in a dark tamarind-flavoured broth. Typically Canh Chua Ca Loc is made with Mekong fish, pineapple, tomatoes and okra.
Hu Tieu: A soup-based dish consisting of long, thin, rice flour noodles served with barbequed pork, shrimp and fish.
Bun Thit Nuong: A delightfully fresh and simple dish. Vermicelli noodles blanketed in herbs, peanuts, sliced cucumber and topped with grilled, marinated pork. This is an easy one to eat. In fact, it's hard to eat only one! All of the above dishes can be enjoyed at most Vietnamese restaurants and street kitchens in Ho Chi Minh City.

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Viet Village

Viet Village serves authentic Vietnamese cuisine in a majestic atmosphere in central Saigon. Located in a beautifully renovated 50-year old French colonial villa, Viet Village offers a reasonably priced menu featuring mouth watering dishes that cover Vietnamese cuisine from North to South. The attentive staff is very knowledgeable and can answer any questions you may have about the food. Before you head back out into the Ho Chi Minh City heat, take time to browse the artifacts and photographs that decorate the walls.

With dishes from every part of the country, Viet Village's menu presents you with a lip-smacking array of choices. The restaurant takes pride in the authenticity of its traditional Vietnamese Cuisine. Viet Village offers a catering service, suitable for both corporate guests and intimate family meals. The traditional Vietnamese décor is subltle and smooth. Note the original brass temple bells and traditional Vietnamese musical instruments. When in HCMC head to Viet Village for an authentic Vietnamese food experience.

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Di Mai Restaurant

Di Mai is not what you would expect from a typical Vietnamese restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City: a sleek ambience, high-quality Vietnamese street food and great prices.

Most eateries fall under three categories – rural or colonial-inspired, high priced; mass chain, mid range; local corner eatery, budget – but Di Mai is in a category of its own: traditional Vietnamese street food in a sleek, modern environment. Di Mai’s creators, Capella D1, took the same approach they did with Sorae and San Fu Lou: smooth surfaces, dark, vibrant colours and excellent food. They also took a page from San Fu Lou and set reasonable prices.

Ambience

A replica of a mid-20th century truck is parked in the middle of the restaurant, with “Made in Vietnam” painted on one of its doors. The truck is surrounded by sturdy wooden tables and comfortable seating, and the vehicle itself also seats a group of six. Black and patterned tiles line the floor, red tiles hugging the large open kitchen, immaculate behind a sheet of glass.

Di Mai restaurant

Black and red are the prominent tones, giving off a similar vibe to the Sorae and San Fu Lou interiors, with historical elements from 1920s to 1960s Saigon subtly infused alongside quality wood furnishing. Some tabletops sport newspaper ads from the era – a common practice back then – and dishware commonly seen in rich Vietnamese households lines a wooden shelf in the corner. It’s a smart setup.

Service

Staff are attentive and communicate well in English. Service and hygiene are important to the Di Mai team, and they take special care to ensure that both are kept up to international standards. The chefs work fast and you don’t have to wait long to get your dishes. Everything comes neatly presented with quality dishware and silverware.

Food & Drink

The colourful, photo-filled menu offers a choice of six ice teas (similar to the ones in San Fu Lou), five fresh American-style healthy juices, eight teas from Teapins and five beers from around Vietnam.

The fresh juices in glass bottles are the highlight here, and are all made on the spot: Wondermelon, with a refreshing watermelon-mint flavour, and Detox, a beet-infused cleanser, are excellent. Three house wines and a few cocktails round up the signature beverages. Portions and prices are small enough to order several dishes at once. Normally fatty dishes like mi quang and fried spring rolls contain sparse oil and fat, allowing them to highlight the excellent ingredients.

Here was our experience:

Bong Thien Ly Xao Toi (VND55,000): Vietnamese flowers stir-fried in light oil. A healthy starter and easy to finish.

Heo Nuong La Lot (VND85,000): This is a slight variation on the signature betel-leaf-wrapped street food, with three spicy minced pork patties and three noodle rolls.

Cha Gio Vit (VND75,000 for four): These crispy duck spring rolls are not as oily as their budget counterpart, and have a thin layer of dough that doesn’t distract from the duck and herbs.

Com Gao Lut (VND20,000): Simple, tasty and healthy brown rice. Goes well with veggie dishes.

Canh Bo Di Mai (VND95,000): This is similar to pho bo, but simpler and without the noodles. It comes in a medium-sized bowl that is perfect if you want a light breakfast or lunch. Similar to the original style of pho, there is a slight sourness as you sip the broth.

Mi Quang Ga (VND78,000): Chicken, quail eggs, shrimp and Hoi An chili make a wonderful bowl. The shrimp are juicy, the broth slightly spicy and full of flavour, and the side dish of veggies fresh.

Banh Gan: A common Vietnamese street cake, this is rarely seen in restaurants of this calibre. Delicious, professionally made, yet sticking to its roots, it’s a good complement to an after-meal tea or coffee.

Banh Khoai Mi: A tasty cassava and coconut cake that is not overly sweet, great as a finisher after a hearty meal.

What Could Be Improved

The excellent fresh juices still don’t have a takeaway option.

What People Say

While the restaurant had a shaky start, the clientele has increased ever since, and the reception is generally very positive.

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Song Ngu Restaurant

Seafood runs deep in Vietnam’s roots. It’s everywhere and in every form, notably in coastal cities like Nha Trang and down south in the Delta. Ho Chi Minh City gets more than its fair share from both ends.

While street joints fill with all manners of fried and skewered sea life, distinguished Vietnamese restaurants specializing in crustaceans and fish fare are not as abundant as one might think. Fortunately, those with some cash to burn and a craving for refined seafood in a comfortable environment have Song Ngu as an option, which won TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence award for 2015.

Song Ngu Restaurant

For nearly 20 years Song Ngu has been serving traditional seafood recipes, grouping Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Malaysian and a number of other cuisines into a nuanced menu.

While the focal point of Vietnamese eateries has been “fresh” seafood ad naseam, the statement appears kitschy coming from a country where processed food is more expensive. Song Ngu takes a step in the right direction by instead highlighting technique, timing and preparation rather than the evident freshness of its food; the restaurant’s hygienic kitchen is also a more palpable selling point.

Simply put, it’s great seafood at dignitary prices (think VND 800,000++ or more per person).

Inset past a pair of green walls are two bridged French villas. The interior is quoted to resemble the style of the Cham people, although it’s more reminiscent of the Viet-Franco art deco you see in Dalat than a Cham hut. The crowd is polite – mostly Asian and American businessmen or upper-middle class families (hence the abundance of private rooms that seat 8-50 people). Unless you’re sat by a company dinner party, expect a quiet meal. Prepare for a formal atmosphere and dress business casual, though the restaurant accepts most manners and styles of dress. Beginning at 7 p.m. a live band navigates the restaurant playing traditional Vietnamese songs on classic instruments such as the t’rung, a type of bamboo xylophone.

Song Ngu Restaurant

The staff is accustomed to dealing with high-profilers – prime ministers and other dignitaries have eaten at Song Ngu on occasion. So expect courtesy, prompt service and a professional attitude. The wait staff speaks little English but pointing to an item on the large menu should suffice. A fair warning: water is not served here in any other form other than bottled, which is a bit of a setback. On a more positive (read: boozy) note, cocktails are around the VND 70,000++ mark, which is oddly affordable for the fine establishment. And yes, they are quite good, as are the mocktails. They also have free Wi-Fi.

Seafood is the heart, soul, blood, bones and marrow of Song Ngu. In other words, you’re coming here because you are determined to splurge on crustaceans made with the precision and skill of a samurai swordsman. This doesn’t mean skimp out on the other offerings. We began with a Song Ngu Style house cocktail, consisting of vodka, orange curacao and pineapple juice, and two fresh spring rolls. The cocktail was balanced, not overly sweet and (we had to do a double take) VND 70,000++, while the rolls (VND 40,000++ a piece) went down clean with homemade peanut sauce. You can also order fried spring rolls of your choice for VND 40,000++ each. If we had to choose one, we’d pick the seafood spring roll four times over. The roll is breaded and fried, a tad crunchy and filled with squid, shrimp, scallops and banana bits. The banana gives the filling a soft texture and semi-sweet savor. The roll pairs well with a mayonnaise dip. After the appetizers, we moved on to the three main courses of seafood.

Song Ngu Restaurant

Drunken Tiger Shrimp (VND 250,000++):

As our host pointed at something behind us, we turned our necks to a waiter promptly lighting a bowl of skittering shrimp on fire, then sliding the critters into a clear pot of Chinese cooking wine over a dancing flame. The shrimp were then taken back to the kitchen to be boiled in water. The wine adds some bitterness to the shrimp while the boiling water takes the acridity to a more balanced level. A short while later we were brought the finished tiger shrimp on a platter. The best way to eat these guys is to take the rostrum (the horn-like part atop the head), pull upwards to break the upper shell and suck out the juices.

Mantis Shrimp (minimum VND 400,000++):

This giant shrimp is quite rare outside its peak season (between the first and second quarter of the year). They’re typically VND 2 million++ per kilogram, so expect to pay a minimum of VND 400,000++ per dish. Mid-season, try and ask for a mantis with eggs – they’ll be the ones with coagulated red “yolk” inside. The recipe is quite basic. The shrimp is fried in garlic and served with a side of salt and lime. But as our host explained, the art lies with timing and preparation. You may want to ask one of the waiters to show you how to eat a mantis shrimp. We were able to get a mantis shrimp with the eggs still inside. The coagulated red substance was waxy, like hardened yolk, and quite protein-rich – it may be an acquired taste for some. The meat was soft and buttery, with a subtle hint of garlic, which cooked through the shell evenly. With a bit of lime and a dash of salt, this was our favorite meal of the afternoon.

Song Ngu Fish Hotpot (VND 235,000++ for small pot with 1 tilapia and VND 335,000++ for a large pot with 2 tilapias):

The tilapia is cooked in pork and chicken stock, radishes and onions. While the fish is soft and relatively flavorless, the stock is reminiscent of a somewhat spicy tomato and vegetable soup, and has a rich, smooth mouthfeel. If you’ve had fish soup in central Vietnam, this is a less intense, more accessible alternative, and quite addictive. By this point we were full, but ordered a fruit platter to clear the seafood smell. Complimentary green tea is given at the end of each meal as well.

From over 40 reviews, Song Ngu averages 4 out of 5 bubbles on TripAdvisor. Reviews praise the excellent seafood, in particular the mantis shrimp. There are few complaints, and even those are minor. People don’t seem to mind the high prices, asserting that the quality of food is worth it.

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Ngoc Chau Garden

Ambience at Ngoc Chau Garden

The rustic style of recycled wooden planks used in the restaurant’s decor create a homey charm to the restaurant while touches of turquoise and citrus paint on repurposed antique shutters brighten the mood. The deep terracotta tones of the brick walls, bamboo lanterns and antique tables add just the right touch of cosy. All these elements will make you feel at ease. The atmosphere at Ngoc Chau Garden is as if you’re being invited into the traditional southern-Vietnamese home of a close friend.

ngoc chau garden

The Food at Ngoc Chau Garden Vietnamese Restaurant

Ngoc Chau Garden’s extensive menu of over a hundred items is a blend of the best of Vietnamese classics and in-house creations. The Ngoc Chau stir-fried beef with the addition of baby corn and snow peas is a light and perfect pairing with rice. We’re pretty sure it’s destined to be an international favourite.

If stir-fry is not your cup of tea, the signature beef and lime leaves salad is quintessentially Indochinese. Crunchy white onions and semi-ripe wild starfruit add an amazing tanginess that readies your palate for more dishes, a splendid appetizer!

ngoc chau garden

Up for more salads? The dried gourami fish and mango salad combines the natural sweet and savoury flavour of dried seafood with the crunch and addictive astringency of unripe mango.

For fans of fruity flavours, there is also a revitalising display of Vietnamese fruit wines made with an assortment of ingredients such as mulberry, strawberry and persimmons.

Ngoc Chau Garden allows diners from and beyond Vietnam to sample the best dishes of the South, Central and North of the country. Perhaps the best item on the menu to represent Hanoi is Ngoc Chau Garden’s Cha Ca La Vong, fish marinated with turmeric powder and sizzled lightly in oil with a good dose of dill and green onions. This unique Northern Vietnamese classic is irresistible when tossed with fresh rice vermicelli, a spoonful of toasted peanuts and a dash of fish sauce or for truly hardcore culinary absolutes, a few drops of pungent and purple mắm tôm (fermented shrimp paste).

ngoc chau garden

Southern dishes are well represented here with Ngoc Chau Garden’s wide range of claypot simmered menu items. The grass carp simmered with galangal and caramelized fish sauce brings the Mekong Delta culinary traditions to a whole new level. Non-seafood choices including simmered young pork ribs or cow’s tendon are also available.

Ngoc Chau Garden’s extensive range of fried rice is also mesmerizing. The rare Chinese-Vietnamese classic, Hoang Kim Golden Rice, offered here requires the chef to carefully coat individual grains of rice with a thin layer of egg yolk before frying it to perfection…too much or too little egg yolk often results in an imperfect serving.

Ngoc Chau Garden’s signature fried rice exudes a mysterious green hue but comes with a completely natural and appetising backstory. Just like many Indonesian and Malaysian desserts and cakes, pandan leaf juice is used to color the fried rice and also give it an alluring fragrance. For a healthy choice, opt for Ngoc Chau Garden’s brown fried rice.

No Vietnamese meal is completely without hot soup. In what we consider to be the true star of Ngoc Chau Garden, the sour soup with snakehead fish and Egyptian river hemp (Sesbania sesban) blossom is both delicious and exotic. These delicately sweet and bright yellow blossoms cultivated primarily in southwestern Vietnam are also a feast for the eyes, a must-try.

ngoc chau garden

Service at Ngoc Chau Garden

With a team of polite and enthusiastic young locals dressed in traditional beige-toned southern Vietnamese garb, guests are unlikely to encounter issues with language since many of the staff at Ngoc Chau Garden are experienced with interacting with foreigners and are proficient in basic English. Feel free to ask members of Ngoc Chau Garden’s service crew for recommendations and the freshest ingredients on any given day.

ngoc chau garden

What People Say about Ngoc Chau Garden

With a consistent 4.5 out of 5 rating on both Google reviews and TripAdvisor, we’re quite certain that consistency, in terms of both flavour and service, is highly valued by the proprietors of Ngoc Chau Garden. Light bites such as spring rolls and pork skewers were particularly popular with reviewers.

What City Pass Guide Says about Ngoc Chau Garden

All in all, the uncomplicated yet non-repetitive character of each dish offered at Ngoc Chau Garden offers an eye-opening glimpse into the world of Vietnamese gastronomy. Regardless of whether guest are first-timers or seasoned veterans in terms of Vietnamese cuisine, Ngoc Chau Garden is able to deliver!

 

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