HCMC Dining Guide

Monday, March 5, 2012

I Heart Food

Still waiting for that rumored final wrap-up of the bike ride? Yea, me too.

One of the things I was most excited about when we got back to Saigon was the easy availability of good Western food. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love Vietnamese food and eat it for most of my meals, but after a month of the same noodle and rice dishes it was time for some comfort food. After blowing through a lot of money over the weekend I wasn't disappointed. Three meals in particular stood out.

On Saturday I went to Au Parc (23 Han Thuyen, near the palace) for brunch with several people from the ride. Many of us made sure we didn't have to go back to teaching this weekend, so we took advantage of having a rare Saturday and Sunday off. It was actually a little odd seeing what people that have weekends off do with their time.

Au Parc is an extremely popular Moroccan/Mediterranean themed restaurant where fresh salads, sandwiches and entrees are served in a really nice setting. There are two options on the brunch menu: New York brunch, and Turkish brunch. I went for the NY one with eggs benedict and poached salmon, as well as bagels, home-made bread with jam and honey, and a brownie. For 270,000 dong, this was a great deal.

look at that spread!
Later that night I had dinner with two of my friends at Cuc Gach (10 Dang Tat, District 1), in my opinion one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the city (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie ate here when they stopped in Saigon earlier this year.). An architect lives in one part of the building, and the restaurant is simply beautiful. Each room looks a bit different from the others, and there is a pond at the bottom of the staircase that leads to the second floor.
This was probably my sixth time eating at Cuc Gach, so I know what I'm doing, but the mammoth wood-bound menu can be intimidating to first-timers, although the staff will gladly recommend dishes. There is a huge range of options, all expertly cooked with high-quality ingredients. We went for a few of our favorites: tofu with lemongrass, pork cooked in clay pot, soft-shell crabs, and morning glory, along with brown rice. Such a good meal.

Finally on Sunday night I went to Ciao Bella (11 Dong Du, District 1), a fairly new Italian restaurant, for my birthday dinner. My editor at AsiaLIFE had raved about the place, so I was excited to check it out. It did not disappoint.

For a starter I had a rich egg ravioli, which was bathed in an amazing sauce.
My main dish was a massive serving of porchetta, big hunks of pork stuffed with fennel, garlic, and other herbs and served with gravy, steamed vegetables, and roast potatoes. This cost about 250,000 dong ($12), which is a lot more than I'm used to paying for food, but the portion was enormous and simply delicious.
The hospitality at Ciao Bella was also great - the manager sent us two desserts free of charge since it was my birthday. Below is the 'Pope's Pillow', and we also got a sizable piece of Tiramisu cake, one of the best I've ever had. This was a fabulous dinner, and I will certainly be going back for more at some point in the future.

the big 2-4
As a result of all this fine dining I've simply been bleeding money since ending the bike ride last Wednesday. Time to get back to my cheap Vietnamese haunts this week.


  1. Loved this post. I was just introduced to Cuc Gach last week and I loved it. I check out your blog on occassion and look forward to reading more about the bike trip. See you around Saigon!
    And,BTW, Happy Birthday!

  2. Thanks, glad you enjoyed the post!

  3. as usual I am jealous of the.food (my phone autocorrected this to.dogs which is hilarious to me) you eat on a daily basis. just looking at most of the pictures you post makes me drool

    1. mmm...dogs. It's also adding a lot periods in the middle of your sentences.