TIME FOR A MEAL
1.Fresh, home-made Saigonese flavours
- Address: Cuch Gach Quan – 10 Dang Tat, Tan Dịnh, District 1
There are many outstanding Vietnamese restaurants in the city, as it is to be expected, but what makes Cuch Gach Quan different is not only the excellence and freshness of its dishes, but the vibe you get while you are there.
The whole idea behind Cuch Gach Quan lays on customers feeling as if they were home. The restaurant is tucked-away on a small alley just ten minutes away from the city centre and it’s distributed along two restored French colonial houses on opposite sides of the street. Its décor is inspired in traditional Vietnamese homes where bonsai trees, ponds, bamboo and wood furniture are essentials.
The menu resembles a book of Vietnamese cuisine, from which one can pick and mix from the numerous dishes. It can feel a little bit overwhelming at first, but the friendly staff will assist and advise first-timers. Everything is absolutely delicious; however, you shouldn’t miss the hot pot, the tofu with lemongrass and chilli as well as the clay-pot-stewed pork. We recommend booking a table in advance as it can get busy, especially during weekends.
2.Would you like to know a secret?
- Address: Secret Garden – 158 bis Pasteur Street, District 1
This well-hidden little gem will require a little bit of effort for you to get there. Secret Garden is located on the rooftop of one of Saigon’s typically old residential buildings. You’ll need to take the stairs until you reach the top, but it’s all worth it once you are there. While climbing up the five floors you’ll get the feeling of entering into the local’s houses. The whole way up there is an experience in itself.
Secret Garden serves traditional Vietnamese dishes, inspired in the countryside lifestyle, full of flavour and freshness. You’ll notice they have their own spices garden, chickens are all around and you can even get a glance of how the dishes are prepared thanks to their open kitchen concept. It became very popular with the years, and nowadays Secret Garden is a must while in Saigon. Make sure you make reservations ahead, especially as you don’t want to get all the way up there and wait until a table becomes available.
Sunsets at Secret Garden are absolutely incredible. The five floors climb will certainly be worth the effort not only for the delicious food, but for the views of the city’s modern and traditional architecture, as well as for a little bit of peacefulness in a city that never stops.
3.A retreat to the mountains
- Address: Mountain Retreat – 36 Le Loi, Ben Nghe, District 1
After being in Saigon for a while, you’ll start realizing that the best places to go are those hidden little oasis located in the midst of the traffic and the frenetic rhythm of the city. It is not a surprise that this place is called Mountain Retreat. It requires climbing five stories to get to the ‘Retreat’, but once you are there you are somehow tele-transporting yourself into the ricefield mountains of Vietnam.
Be prepared to fall in love with this place – views of the city are wonderful, food is delightful and its atmosphere and décor are sublime. The menu is an excellent combination of traditional Vietnamese dishes offering fruit and vegetable salads, barbequed seafood and meats, clay-pot dishes and plenty of vegetarian options. Go for the southern Vietnamese style and choose between five and eight dishes to share. You’ll get a mixture of flavours and an excellent overview of the renowned Vietnamese gastronomy.
4.Vegetarian paradise in Saigon
- Address: Hum Vegetarian, Cafe & Restaurant – 32 Vo Van Tan, Ward 6, District 3
One of the things we loved most about Vietnam is that the options for vegetarians are plenty. As Buddhism represents a very important part of the
Vietnamese culture, you will find that many restaurants and street-food stalls offer vegetarian and vegan dishes.
A few years ago, vegan eateries were only directed to locals, but since Hum Vegetarian came into the scene, everything changed. At present, Hum has placed itself among the best restaurants in town and once you go there, you will soon realize why this does not come as a surprise.
Hum’s fancy style and peaceful atmosphere combines perfectly with its carefully prepared plates. With a touch of Thai flavours, you’ll be surprised to know that all dishes are prepared using fresh local ingredients and are made on the spot. Orders might take a while to arrive but their tasty fruity mocktails will make up for the wait. Everything is seriously delicious, but do not miss their epic ‘Hum’ deep fried spring rolls as well as their lotus brown rice.
5.Can’t leave Vietnam without trying its Pho!
- Address: Pho Le – 415 Nguyen Trai, Ward 7, District 5
You’ve probably heard about Pho before; you may have even tried it at home. If that’s the case, get ready for an entirely different experience. This tasty noodle soup is one of South East Asia’s most delicious dishes, and it’s a
Southern Vietnamese signature delicacy.
We tried so many Pho restaurants in Saigon, but the title of ‘best Pho in town’ always ends up going to Pho Le. On top of having a super tasty pho, it’s clean, comfy and still keeps the ‘street-food’ feel. It’s always crowded and open for both lunch and dinner. We would say head there for lunch, and take advantage of the trip to District 5 to go check out the Chinese district’s lively market and remarkable pagodas.