With its immaculately designed interior and breathtaking views of the city’s skyline, Chill Skybar has become one of Saigon’s choicest drinking establishments over its first year-plus. But in the past few months, with a revamped menu, and an expanded upper deck drinking and dining area, Chill has committed itself to bringing the glamour for which its bar is famous to all aspects of the customer dining experience.
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.
Upon discovering I’d be reviewing a New York-style Italian restaurant, images of the rambunctious dining scenes from Martin Scorsese’s iconic 1990 mafia flick Goodfellas instantly came to mind.
Aesthetically, Zest is unlike any restaurant I’ve encountered in Saigon; a cross between a North American industrial warehouse (whitewashed breezeblocks, metal support beams and pillars, high ceilings) and a Scandinavian villa (wooden slats), making for an extremely open, cool and airy atmosphere. The wry foodie twist applied to the propaganda-style poster artwork painted onto the walls is equally unique, adding a slight kitschy feel to the surrounds.
Peeping out from below Au Lac Saigon Hotel is Bahdja, Saigon’s first Algerian restaurant. Taken from the Arabic noun for ‘happiness’, Bahdja not only attempts to produce authentic, multi-ethnic Berber North African and Mediterranean cuisine cooked and served in a traditional Algerian style, but also a genuinely pleasant Arabic-influenced dining experience.