Barbara Adam discovers a feast for the senses in the back reaches of Thao Dien at Bistro Song Vie at Villa Song. Photos by Romain Garrigue.
Singaporean chef Chris Fong has burst onto Ho Chi Minh City’s food scene with a stunning new fusion menu that delights the eyes as much as the tastebuds.
The menu is inspired by dishes Chris has encountered in his new home of Vietnam, as well as from around the world, and each dish is a masterpiece of plating and flavours.
Chris learned his craft at Michelin-starred restaurants in Singapore, then started his own restaurant, Horizon, which ended up with three outlets in the city-state. But rising rents forced Chris to close and seek a new culinary adventure.
He found that adventure at Villa Song’s picturesque riverside restaurant, an oasis of emerald green lawn, frangipani trees, river views and a choice of outdoor or indoor dining.
The AsiaLIFE team began our fine dining fusion experience with cold savoury fish angel hair (VND250,000), a stunning coil of pasta infused with a salted fish sauce, spring onion oil and chunks of crab meat, garnished with pretty edible flowers. This first dish set a very high bar, flavour-wise. And, incredibly, each dish we sampled met or exceeded the standard of the first dish.
My favourite dish was a fall-off-the-bone tender lemongrass duck leg confit (VND450,000), served with carrot puree, sauteed mushroom, potato dauphinoise and a pina colada gravy that was so good I ate spoonfuls of it when the wait staff weren’t looking.
The Kyushu-style duo of pork (VND520,000) had an array of flavours and textures. The first part of the pork duo was a melt-in-the-mouth chunk of slow-braised Kakuni pork belly. The second part was a basil and mint-cured pork tenderloin. Accompanying, and complimenting perfectly, was a cauliflower puree, tempura enoki mushroom and a Kakuni sauce.
Chris said the next dish, betel leaf chicken breast roulade (VND400,000), contained a nod to the Vietnamese bo la lot (beef wrapped in betel leaf). These chicken rolls, however, are much more substantial than the cigar-sized bo la lot, and were served accompanied by a carrot puree and a homemade satay sauce. (Yup, I had a couple of spoonfuls of this sauce as well. But by now the wait staff had noticed my poor table manners.)
The final main course dish was 24-hour Gochuchang beef bourguignon (VND650,000), beef short ribs in red wine sauce, mashed potato, pickled pear, grilled carrot and asparagus, onion petals and Gochuchang jus. The soft and melty beef had a complex flavour and a very subtle sweetness. As in all the dishes we tried, as much attention had been paid to the preparation of the vegetables as the meat, perfectly grilled to bring out the flavours, yet retaining just the right amount of crunch.
The desserts were even more visually stunning than the mains. We sampled a delicious ginger creme brulee (VND160,00), served with spiced poached pear, mascarpone mousse and cinnamon soil, as well as the rambutan honey parfait (VND190,000), with lemon curd, torched meringue and tiny nuggets of microwaved sponge.
They were the perfect finale to an amazing gastronomic journey.