One of the more recent additions to Xuan Dieu, our undercover reviewer discovers that Bluebird is adding some quality to the area. Photos by Francis Roux

Tucked away in an alley off Le Thanh Ton, the funky Yamaneko offers delicious, unpretentious Okinawan fare alongside mainland staples, including dishes such as buta no syoga yaki tesuko (grilled pork marinated in ginger sauce) and rafute soba tesoku (Okinawa soba noodle with soft stewed pork). Standard Japanese fare is also on hand if you don’t want to dive into something a little different. Does a great set lunch deal.

Italy is always going to remind me of Silvio Berlusconi, football, a certain red capped plumber and of course, the food! In Venice at the age of 12 or so, I was too young to remember how much, or of what I wolfed down in detail, but I do remember the smell of cream and tomatoes cooking, my first glimpse of an entire cured pork leg and the discovery of pistachio ice cream before nearly getting lost in St Mark’s Square. But the spirit of Italy for me will always lie in its warmth, its cuisine and its great hospitality. Looking forward to revisiting those memories, we aimed for Le Loi with our sights firmly set on Casa Italia.

"Irasshaimase!” Boom! The shouted traditional welcome yanked us out of Vietnam and into Japan, or at least, a small slice of it in the form of Tamago, a pretty little place nestled in the leafy otherworld suburb of District 2.

R.E.D with its red-lit sign adds some life to this relatively uneventful street, noise comfortably falling out of its doors as well as the odd customer after one too many. Recently changing its name from Red Drum (Trong Do), the popular downtown watering hole has renovated its upstairs area to a more diner friendly space. Modern in design without being too sterile, the area upstairs manages to live up to the bar’s name-cum-acronym — relax, eat and drink.

Plush and indulgent, Xu’s main currency is escapism. A long bar manned with more than capable mixologists downstairs is an instant draw. But we were here for the food, so we headed upstairs into the soft lighting and intimacy of the dining area. Boasting a well-conceived collaboration between Vietnamese cuisine and overseas cooking styles, and with the likes of Square One and Blanchy’s Tash just a stone’s throw away, our expectations were high.

No stranger to being knee deep in shrimp shells on any given day, I was rather excited to be reviewing upscale seafood restaurant Song Ngu. In this town there are two ways to enjoy coastal cuisine — either in front of a cheap stainless steel table on the street or in high-end restaurants with expensive tableware. Song Ngu belongs to the latter. While a majority of my experience lies firmly in the former, the extensive menu presented to our party as we sat was a nice departure from the finger pointing ordering I’m used to.

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