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Vietnam is famous especially within Asia for its excellent cuisine. With both Asian influences, and also French, they have melanged together to create some excellent dishes and some wonderful restaurants in the process. This guide of restaurants will help you choose where to wine and dine whilst in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. There definitely is no need to limit your experience to the hotel restaurant, and you would be missing out on all the fun if you did.
Restaurants in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)
Fourchette can be found 9 Ngo Duc Ke, right in the heart of the city. It is a small French restaurant, with a very French feel to it. The lunch time is extremely busy so it is best to arrive there early especially as they only have about 10 tables. Their food is typically French with specials of the day also on offer. Being so small it can be rather intimate but if you need to feel as if you are almost in a French Bistrot somewhere then this is the place.
Madame Tinh - recommended by H.L., Madame Tinh is a superb Vietnamese chef. She ran the Vietnamese restaurant at the New World until it closed. She now runs a small little restaurant in the backpacker area with her sisters which has great food. It is simple, but clean and cheap. Her mother was also a chef from the Hue area. You will love it. It is always full of travellers and so quite fun. It is actually in one of those funny little lanes that runs off Pham Ngu Lau Street. As you enter Pham Ngu Lau Street it is the second little left lane about 20 metres down on your right side.
The following reviews and recommendations were very kindly given to us by a dear friend HL who is Australian and lived for a long time in Vietnam - Our sincere thanks go out to you HL.
Vasco's under Camargue Restaurant: 16 Cao Ba Quat St, D1, HCMC - Hosts Alexander and Thy. Groovy bar with cool music, board games, pool tables, garden area and live music on selected nights from about 11pm until late. Good light meals menu too. Complimentary BBQ in the garden on nights that the band plays.
Camargue - Still a good spot for tourists as the French colonial style open air villa is such a lovely spot in the heart of the city. International menu with French feel, reasonable wine list.
La Bocca - Newish small restaurant in Nguyen Thiep St, D1 which runs between Nguyen Hue & Dong Khoi Streets. Modern interior, soft lighting. Supposedly Italian cuisine but the chef is French so it is a bit of a mix.
Globo - also in Nguyen Thiep across the road from La Bocca. Used to be a funky French wine bar, but has been taken over by new management and changed into a restaurant. Their big plus is a great pizza oven. The chef is Italian (used to work for the well known Italian restaurant called Sandro's which is now called Pendalasco's).
Sheridan's - corner of Le Thanh Ton St & Thi Sach St, D1. Great little Irish pub run by Michael Forsyth, the GM of Riverside Apartments. Great Irish food, home baked breads, home made sausages, etc - good hearty feel good food.
Sakura Japanese Restaurant - Mac Thi Bui St, D1 - Pricey by Vietnam standards but good food. Upstairs has private tatami rooms.
Akatombo - Hai Ba Trung St, D1 near corner of Le Loi St. Japanese tavern style restaurant. A good little spot for inexpensive Japanese meals served at a little bar counter.
Le Bordeaux - Fabulous upmarket French restaurant near the big round about (circle of death !) as you head out of the city towards An Phu District. Cannot remember the address and in any case it is hidden away so someone would need to explain to a cab driver the directions. Hotel staff could do this. It is usually listed in the weekly Time Out magazine restaurant guide. Hosts Bruno and Jean Yves are great. They have fresh foi gras flown in from Paris, superb wines, bucket loads of fresh roses and a very romantic atmosphere. Very few tourists would know about this place. Bookings recommended.
Bi Bi's - Thi Sach St, D1 - run by the flamboyant Bi Bi who is known for his wonderful assortment of colourful espadrilles. Serves great French Mediterranean Cuisine. Complimentary couscous salad is served when you arrive with crusty bread. he also has mussels and oysters flown in from France occasionally, makes great fillet for a group of people.
Sama - Dong Du St, D1 - fabulous French deli that sells cheese and cold cuts with a small restaurant attached. Open for lunch and dinner. Great baguettes for take out or eat in if you can find a seat amongst the French expat lunchtime crowd. Great creme caramel.
Restaurant 13 - 13 Ngo Duc Ke St, D1 - a bit touristy but one of my favourites. Serves classic Vietnamese food that is a step up from street food, but still cheap and tasty. They cater to foreigners by serving chicken with no skin, no bones, etc. Extensive menu with some strange translations like Fried Fallopian tubes. Head waiter is a charming older man who speaks French to all foreigners. Even serve house Bordeaux by the glass! Best dishes are Lemongrass Chicken, Deep Fried Squid with Plum Sauce (read Crusty Squid), Caramel Claypot Pork, Thai Style Soup and Water Spinach with Garlic.
Coffee Shop at Caravelle Hotel - great buffet especially the Sunday Brunch and Friday Seafood Lunch.
Asian Reflections, 3rd Floor, Caravelle Hotel - fab restaurant where Exec Chef from Australia, ex-Macau Bella Vista (which was one of the leading boutique hotels in Asia famous for its food until it turned itself into the Portuguese Ambassadors home-previously Mandarin Hotel Group) shows his flair with East meets West cuisine. Menu features exciting dishes from all over Asia served with flair and style. Expect unusual platters and artistic presentation, plus yummy tastes.
Dynasty Restaurant, New World Hotel Saigon - Le Lai St, D1 - still one of the best Chinese restaurants in town. Serves great dim sum for lunch and Sunday brunch.
Sapa Restaurant - Thai Van Lung St, D1 - unsophisticated cafe style place which is great for Sunday cooked breakfast - cheap and cheerful - try for the table on the upstairs balcony.
Chao Thai - Thai Van Lung St, D1- beautiful decor and fabulous food from your hosts Simon and Cherry Millard. Cherry is Thai and personally supervises the cooking. Nice little pre-dinner drinks bar at entrance.
Why Not? - Thai Van Lung St, D1 - lovely small French restaurant upstairs. Pleasant decor and good priced set menus. Yummy desserts - try the sinful chocolate terrine. Your host Ms Thu Anh is delightful.
Indian Heritage - Corner of Le Thanh Ton & Thai Van Lung St, D1 - Yummy Indian food. Also serve a lunch buffet which is good value.
O'Brien's Bar - Hai Ba Trung St, D1 - a pub style spot with courtyard at the rear run by a Frenchman. TV's for sports and great pizza from the oven in the coutryard. Also serve up yummy filled jacket potatoes and hot dogs in baguettes.
Restaurants in Hanoi
Mocha Cafe is located close to the Notre Dame Cathedral, in central Hanoi. They serve some excellent coffee and have a very wide selection of food. The atmosphere is very relaxed and although without the views of the Champs Elysees this does have a feel of a French cafe, where you go to meet and mingle with friends.
Press Club - A favourite in Hanoi. This club is verry close to the Opera and Metropole hotel. The food is excellent with a choice of three restaurants. They offer good value for money and a very relaxing atmosphere. Our favourite is the library/cigar bar in the evenings, where you can eat and talk whilst sitting on sofas etc. Very nice night out.