Barbara Adam samples some authentic Indian fare at Baba’s Kitchen’s new location in District 2. Photos by Romain Garrigue.
Baba’s Kitchen has built a loyal following in Ho Chi Minh City over the past five years with its extensive menu of Southern and Northern Indian dishes.
This loyalty flows two ways, with owner Robin Deepu as devoted to his customers as he is to providing quality and value-for-money.
An indication of Robin’s loyalty is his decision to bring forward the opening of the new Baba’s Kitchen in District 2 so one of his customers could attend the opening night before he left town.
Baba’s Kitchen Thao Dien, in a leafy courtyard in the shadow of the British International School, is a unique concept in Ho Chi Minh City, with two restaurants sharing the venue.
The original restaurant, a Thai restaurant called Elephant Garden, uses one kitchen, while Baba’s Kitchen uses another. In the evenings, diners can order from either for a pan-Asian feast of Indian and Thai food.
AsiaLIFE visited the new Baba’s one lazy Tuesday lunchtime, and were rewarded with a procession of delicious and colourful Indian dishes with knockout flavours.
The Kerala fish fry (VND120,000), from Robin’s home state in Southern India, was one of the highlights: soft tender bites of fish marinated in turmeric, ginger, garlic, fennel and a hint of chilli.
Another stand-out was the gobi Manchurian (VND90,000), one of the most famous dishes of Indo-Chinese cuisine. Florets of cauliflower, battered, and stir-fried in a Chinese-style sweet and sour sauce with a touch of Indian heat.
Our decision to sample some iconic Indian dishes in the form of butter chicken (VND115,000), palak paneer (VND90,000), dahl fry (VND80,000), chicken tandoori (VND150,000 for half a chicken) and garlic naan (45,000) was rewarded with repeated groans of delight from all in our party.
We even managed to try a masala dosa (VND99,000), an enormous crispy crunchy waffle-y pancake served with a spicy-but-not-too-spicy Indian salsa.
In true Indian style, a range of condiments were presented with our meal: mint sauce, green mango pickle, pickled onions, tamarind sauce and a sweet mango chutney.
During our lunch we could hear the excited screams of BIS students in the playground across the road. At one point a line of children from a local school filed past for a swimming lesson in the pool behind the restaurant.
The honest everyday-ness of life swirling around the restaurant seems fitting. It’s a friendly and laid-back place, with its tables protected from the elements by canvas marquees.
“A restaurant is more than a business,” Robin said. “It’s hospitality. It’s about how you care for people.”
Anyone who has ever ordered delivery from Baba’s Kitchen know about the level of caring the restaurant has. Every order is followed up by a phone call from manager Jeet to check how the food was.
Expect the same level of service from deliveries from the new location, which will service Binh Thanh, Tu Duc and Districts 2 and 9.