A seasoned chef serves up some Italian and French inspired dishes in a serene villa in the centre of town. By Chris Mueller. Photos by Dave Lemke.

Ton That Vinh is no stranger to the kitchen. Vinh started his career as an apprentice in a Michelin-star restaurant in Sydney, and then went on to work in some of the top restaurants in the city.

Vinh then decided to get back to his roots, heading to Hanoi to further his cooking abilities at Bobby Chinn’s before moving to Saigon, where he ran the kitchens at Shri Lounge and An Lam Saigon River.

After years behind the burners, Vinh has decided to take a new approach to food by opening his own restaurant, Dine Viva, in a modern villa off Dien Bien Phu.

The gates of the villa reveal an open-air terrace, complete with a small herb garden that provides fresh ingredients for the kitchen. The patio is a perfect spot to enjoy a quiet breakfast of eggs benedict (VND 120,000) or pancakes (VND 110,000).

Inside things get a little fancier. During the day the tables are bare and the restaurant has a laid-back café feel, a perfect match for the affordable lunch menu. But at night the space transforms into a white-table cloth dining room with an equally elegant menu, featuring dishes such as foie gras with red-wine-poached starfruit (VND 390,000).

The foie gras is pan-seared to have a slight crisp on the outside with a soft warm inside and the starfruit adds a sweet and tangy complexity. It would make a perfect light dinner or a great shared appetiser, but may not be enough food for hungrier mouths.

The court bouillon poached salmon (VND 395,000), however, is a filling meal. The thick piece of rare salmon is placed on top of a bed of mashed peas and spinach, with a pomelo white wine sauce, which adds a perfect amount of sweetness to the fishy and fresh Atlantic salmon.

We ended our meal with the popular flourless chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and baked raspberries and strawberries (VND 175,000). With hints of brandy, coffee and almonds, the cake is rich but balanced out by the lightness of the fruit and ice cream.

Dine Viva has an experienced chef at the helm and it comes through in the high-end menu. Although dinner isn’t cheap, the lunch and breakfast menus are as affordable as it gets.

195 Dien Bien Phu, D3
08 38 27 20 18
7.30am to 10pm, seven days