Seafood restaurants are a dime a dozen in Vietnam, enjoyed daily from north to south. Yet, on a cool Monday evening in deepest, darkest District 7, idle staff at Nha Hang Ca Bien Saigon Moi out-number customers two-to-one. No one’s here, reducing the atmosphere to a damp squib.

There are some Vietnamese dishes that seem to regularly win favour with foreign diners. One such dish is com tam. The name refers to the shattered grains of rice that are used in the recipe — developed by poor farming communities, who in times gone by would sell the whole grains but reserve for themselves the rice that broke during the rough threshing process. A humble peasant’s dish this may be, but the resulting meal has a soft, fluffy consistency with a slightly nutty flavour.

Though looks aren’t everything, it’s hard not to be dazzled by Ly Club’s plush aesthetic beauty — itself a homage to the creative prowess of the Ly Dynasty. Elegant yet casual, we sit in a softly lit and greenly shrouded front garden, surrounded by comfy French-style garden furniture atop a raised wooden deck area. A stunning infinity fountain, a vast French colonial villa and a sleek outdoor bar make for captivating eye candy. The cacophonous rush hour traffic is replaced by the swirl of Eurasian lounge music.

With the increasing cosmopolitan nature of this city and diners’ willingness to dabble in the exotic, the addition of Chile House, the first Chilean restaurant in Saigon, should be regarded less as a surprise and more an inevitability.

The roundabout at Nguyen Tri Phuong and Ngo Gia Tu on the border of Cholon and District 10 is an odd place for an outlet of one of Taiwan’s foremost snack chains. And yet on the wall of an unaffected, sidewalk-dining, local-style restaurant, is the unmistakable trademark of the Starbucks of the soy milk world, Yonghe Doujiang Da Wang. The name in Mandarin is a mouthful and the ostentatious translation is just as tough on the tongue — ‘The Eternal Harmony Soy Milk King’. Fortunately, the drinks and cuisine here are anything but.

Opened in 2002 and named after the late Danish cartoonist and illustrator Robert Storm Petersen, this no-frills Scandinavian eatery and bar serves up hearty and wholesome, home cooked-style Danish and Bavarian-inspired cuisine in a quaint and cosy setting.

If any restaurant currently epitomises the ‘new’ Ho Chi Minh City, it’s Koh Thai. From its chic and voguish décor to the menu’s unique and contemporary twist on authentic Thai cuisine, this recently opened venue screams modernity. Upon our visit the emerging middle-income Vietnamese occupy the majority of the dining tables.

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