A cook from south of France, a restaurant set in a serene French-styled mini-villa, a unique collection of French wines and authentic French cuisine… All this in the outskirts of Saigon, a.k.a. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam… Sounds unreal? Well its true. A historic French colony of the 19th Century… French influence is very visible throughout the Vietnam belt… and La Villa reminds you of that French presence.
La Villa, a cozy French restaurant was launched on Valentine’s Day 2011, is HCMC’s most popular European restaurants, and a must try! Google for top 10 restaurant’s in HCMC and La Villa will feature in the list for sure. And that’s exactly how we stumbled upon this little gourmet treat. It was our last weekend in this adorable city, and we decided to treat ourselves to something special to close a special stay. It was late on Saturday evening when we decided to call up La Villa. An extremely helpful maître de informed us that if we managed to reach their restaurant even 10 minutes after their last order time, she would be happy to indulge us. Off we went and managed to reach in the nick of time.
The restaurant is set in a beautifully designed villa, away from the noise and bustle of the city. Adorned with a well-kept swimming pool, loads of tables were laid around the pool to give the restaurant a serene look. However, the evening we went was quite warm, so we decided towards an indoor sitting. Inside the tables were laid out quite formally, with no two tables sticking to each other, thus, guaranteeing privacy. There’s a huge spiral staircase in the middle of the seating that leads to the upper level of the villa and I wondered if the staircase actually led to another level of seating. The walls of the serene setting carry some unique European paintings, which are actually for sale. The ambience is a pleasant mix of the old French setting. As we sat down, the maître de brought us the menu and an even thicker wine menu. As I browsed through the food menu, I realized my husband would probably go hungry, as there weren’t too many vegetarian dishes, and certainly didn’t see any main courses. I enquired with the maître de and she smiled and said she would be back in a minute. We thought she would be back with a separate vegetarian menu. However, she returned with a 6 foot plus, European guy, who introduced himself as Thierry, the head chef of this boutique restaurant. He apologized that French cuisine wasn’t very vegetarian friendly, but promised to put together a no meat, no seafood meal for my hubby. Being relived of the task of choosing his own food, my hubby happily left the choice to the capable hands of the chef. Taking a cue from my husband’s smart move, I turned to the chef and asked him what seafood specialities were, and he agreed to surprise me with special meal.
What we were in for, was a treat!
The Wine: Whether you are a wine drinker or not, do surf through their wine menu… here you will find some of the most traditional French wines from the smallest to the largest wineries of France. On the chef’s recommendation, we went in for Haut Médoc, Château Sociando-Mallet, 2009, this full-bodied, spicy, fruity red went well with our food. Although the wines was slightly on the steep side, price-wise, the end result was something I couldn’t complain about.
The breads: Like a true European restaurant, there was a continuous flow of delectable breads, with different ingredients, tomatoes, olives, etc. to go with your courses.
The three course meal:
The First Course
Vol au Vent with Giant Prawns and Foie Gras – The vol au vent or the hollow pastry was made to perfect, extremely light and crisp. The light tomato based crème sauce, and the perfected flavoured prawns together, with foie gras the jewel of the crown. While the course is actually a sizable potion, the lightness of the pastry combined with beautifully cooked prawns and delectable foie gras is a delightful way to start your meal! The chef cooked up a nice vegetarian creamy based soup for my husband. The soup of course is not a part of their menu… just like the vegetarian egg-plant based main course he produced.
The Main Course
I was still savouring the first course, when my second course appeared. Grilled Sea Bass Filet with Olive Oil. I love sea bass… this beautiful white fish, with the lightest taste is my seafood favourite. So you can imagine my surprise when the main course turned out to be grilled sea bass… this softly grilled sea bass fillet, cooked just right was a savory delight.
I also tried the mains which was not a part of the original menu. It was Crab meat served on the bed of mashed green peas… not a combination I would have thought would go too well… but what do you know it worked.
For dessert we each tried a different flavour. Concorde a la Framboise for the chocolate fanatic in me and the extremely wanton, soft Lemon tart for my husband. Needless to say, just like the rest of the meal, the desserts were a treat too!!
How much does it cost me: A dinner for two can cost anywhere between US $80 to $200 depending upon your selection of food as well as wine.
The Verdict: Half way through our meal, Thierry came back to our table and began chatting with us… by this time, we were so impressed with what we were served, that we were more than happy to chat with the friendly Frenchman. In our chat we realized that Theirry infact was the owner, well, part-owner of the restaurant along with his wife, Tina, the friendly maître de who attended to us earlier! During the conversation we realized that the couple actually live upstairs, thus, solving my earlier curiosity about where the beautiful spiral staircase led to! Thierry’s vision to make the restaurant an experience is truly accomplished. We felt special as we were treated to a special experience. Having indulged in the amazingly traditional French cuisine, in an almost European setting, I had forgotten that I wasn’t in between the countryside of France, but actually sitting in HCMC! It’s a must try, for it isn’t just a restaurant, it is the whole experience that makes your meals exceptional!
If I am forced to list a not so appealing aspect about La Villa, it probably is the price. In a city like HCMC, where food is relatively cheap, US $100 and above is quite steep… having said that, the expat community in HCMC and the travelers don’t seem to be complaining. A tip, we were lucky we managed a table on a Saturday evening, but I would highly recommend that your reserve a table, especially on weekends!
Address: 14 Ngo Quang Huy St,Thao Dien Ward,Distrist 2, HCMC
For reservation: (08) 3898 2082 or Hotline +84908128860
P.S: Some of the photographs are picked directly from the La Villa website…