As we look back on our short stay in Ho Chi Minh City (three days), we have to admit we ate an awful lot of Western food. Whoops! We read about a couple of awesome places and were eager to try them, just a coincidence there was only one Vietnamese restaurant among them.
On our first night in Ho Chi Minh City we ate close by our guesthouse ( Ngoc Thao Guesthouse). Just around the corner we found Baba's Kitchen, an Indian restaurant. Since our heavenly lunch(es) at Restoran Kapitan in George Town, Malaysia, we’ve tried Indian in almost every city we’ve been. Although we’ve had some negative experiences before, at Baba’s Kitchen we liked the food. We tried butter chicken (105,000 VND) and chicken Korma (99,000 VND), both Indian curries, both a bit spicier than expected. We loved the naan and range of sauces presented on every table (that can compensate for the spiciness), they’re delicious!
When we went in search for the restaurant, the power was out in the whole street. So we had a beer by candle light while waiting about half an hour for the power to come back on. Romantic! While ordering the owner warned us there’s koriander in all the curries, but he could leave out the fresh leaves of koriander. He was really friendly. After your meal they ask you to fill out a small form to rate the food and service. When you do, you get 5% discount, score! Oh, and you never get out of free drinking water, as they fill it up almost immediately when you put it down after taking a sip. If you’re into Indian food, try Baba’s Kitchen!
On our day of sightseeing, we lunched at Au Parc Cafe, near Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s a really nice French cafe, a bit more expensive than we’re used to, but we loved the food. Brecht had a Marseille Baguette (baguette with steak and vegetables), with some delicious coleslaw (135,000 VND). I went with The Italian Job Salad (salad?! yep, salad): rocket salad, kind of Parma ham (forgot the actual type) and Parmesan cheese (165,000 VND). It was really good, although some (more) balsamic vinegar would have been nice. The bread was heavenly! Please note we had to pay another 10% VAT and 5% service charge, as mentioned in the fine print. We sat by the window on barstools, but the space on your right when you come up to the first floor looked a lot more cozy. Definitely worth the splurge.
Our one and only real Vietnamese dinner in Ho Chi Minh City was at Cyclo Resto, a small and simple restaurant, tucked away in a dodgy alley. We were looking for it in the wrong alley, until a nice man just guessed we were searching Cyclo Resto and showed us the way. Maybe that’s just his job, don’t know, very strange, but we were glad we found the restaurant. The staff welcomed us in and explained they only serve a set menu consisting of five dishes (for 135,000 VND per person). They asked if we ate everything they were gonna use in the menu: pork, shrimp, fish, chicken and koriander. (No koriander please!) Our first dish were special spring rolls: crispy heaven with a delicious sauce to dip them in. Second, green melon soup (what?!) with prawns: sounds strange but was actually really yummy!
Next three dishes were brought together: stir fried vegetables, fish in claypot and chicken lemongrass. We have to admit we weren’t a fan of the fish and we discovered lemongrass is another typical Asian flavour we don’t quite like. “Free” dessert to end the set menu on a positive note: fresh pineapple. Overall we were very pleased with the food and the staff was very friendly. The icing on the cake: we got to write a note on the wall (we chose the door), amidst of years and years of satisfied customers. Always wanted to do this! It’s safe to say Cyclo Resto was our favourite Asian restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City.
Another nice “restaurant” we tried was Barbecue Garden. As the name may have given away, you eat in a cozy garden lit up by hundreds of lights. Too bad it’s on the corner of two busy streets, which you can’t completely forget. Although it didn’t bother us, as we were focused on the food. It’s really a fun concept, with a grill built in in the middle of the table to bake your own meat. They have happy hour until 19h, which means if you buy one skewer, you get one free (on a limited selection of skewers of course). We were excited about the grilled beef with cheese, but we didn’t taste the cheese, to be honest. The oven baked potato was dry and tough, a disappointment. We did like the prawn skewers with bacon and the grilled vegetable skewers. We also had steamed rice and some pork and chicken skewers, not memorable. Together with two Saigon Green beers, the bill added up to 383,000 VND. The food was good and we enjoyed ourselves, but it’s probably a bit expensive for what you get.
It had been a long time since we had a good baguette with cheese and vegetables. Banh Mi (like we had in Hanoi) comes close, but isn’t quite the same. So when we entered ABC Bakery, we were glad to notice they sell egg mayo baguettes with or without vegetables (25,000-35,000 VND). We really needed that. Watch out if you don’t like koriander (like us), because they will put it in your baguette unless you ask otherwise. On another occasion we also tried their garlic toast (20,000 VND), which wasn’t good, and their pizza focaccia (25,000 VND), which was great. We know it’s a franchise bakery, but they can have good food too!
And then, last but not least, we ate at Soul Burger on our last night in HCMC. We read online the restaurant wasn’t easy to find and indeed, we had some problems too. We walked the street up and down and finally found it near the corner of the street where we started looking (trust our marker on the map to your right!). The trick is to look up, as the restaurant is situated on the first floor, above a massage salon. The restaurant is “soul music”-themed and lovely decorated, but quite small. Brecht had The Diana Ross (230,000 VND), a treat for cheese and mushroom lovers (even I liked it and I normally don’t eat mushrooms). I chose The Little Richard (195,000 VND), a bit dry at first, but I totally loved it once I added some tomato ketchup. The fries were outstanding! It’s again a little more expensive, but definitely worth it. No doubt that we’ll eat here again if we ever go back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Although we took a break from local food, we did discover some nice places to eat in Ho Chi Minh City. It seems we spent a bit more on food here compared to other cities in Vietnam. Maybe because I sought out these places and not Brecht, and used Lonely Planet as a source. Before you go in search for good food yourself in Ho Chi Minh City (plenty of choice!), we only have one tip. The wet wipes they bring you together with your cutlery are often not free. Up to you to just pay for them or to bring your own (we got wet wipes for free on all (long distance) buses in Vietnam, so we had a few in stock).