Lauren Cameron feasts her senses at one of Ho Chi Minh City’s newest fine dining establishments, Jardin Des Sens. Photos by Romain Garrigue.
It comes as no surprise that Jacques and Laurent Pourcel’s latest gastronomic venture, Ho Chi Minh City-based Jardin Des Sens, is making waves in the city’s culinary scene after only two months.
The concept is this: delicate, seasonal, homemade fare served in an elegant, exclusive setting; with flavours inspired by the Mediterranean influences of the south of France, the birthplace of founders Jacques and Laurent.
The twin chefs have already found success with restaurants in Shanghai, Casablanca, Paris, Marrakech and Montpellier, France, where the pair first earned international praise – and three Michelin stars. Jardin Des Sens is just one of five restaurants the group plans to open in Saigon over the coming year.
The venue, in a historic French colonial villa, is stunning, and the utmost care has gone into the finishing touches, such as plates are individually handmade in Monte Carlo, and a limited edition 1.2 metre pepper grinder.
We enjoyed the three-course Chef’s Market Menu (VND630,000), a lunch menu that changes daily. One could also opt for just two courses for a reasonable VND350,000 – a steal really, considering each service includes a complimentary starter (we enjoyed tasty bites of cheese cookies, fish croquettes, tomato espuma and beetroot jelly fois gras), surprise amuse-bouche and to finish: petit fours, also complementary. Every Jardin Des Sens meal is meat to be an experience – and a generous one, at that.
Starting with an appetizing vegetable tarte smeared with a full-flavoured Cretin de Chevre AOP, we moved onto mains. For me the crispy red mullet served on a bed of tangy artichoke mousseline, squid and clams was the perfect Sunday lunch, and a perfect segue to dessert – a mascarpone cake layered delicately with apricot sorbet and honeycomb. Of course, with more than 185 French wines available, generally by the time dessert rolls around diners are well and truly satiated.
Moving onto the a la carte menu… Designed to be presented in sync with its natural environment, the king crab starter (VND600,000) is served raw and smoked upon a bed of coconut snow and lime mousse, with bursts of champagne jelly, coriander, avocado and lemon, a stark contrast to the spicy bloody mary served with the dish. However, it was the restaurant’s signature Mieral pigeon (VND970,000) that stood out for us. As the cloche lifted, revealing a candied leg and pigeon fillet covered with rich, syrupy cacao jus, we learnt of the history of the dish, whose origins trace back to Louis IVth and his disposition to only consume fillet of pigeon. The wait staffs’ attentive service was perhaps the highlight of the experience for me – in true fine dining fashion, expert knowledge of each dish on the constantly changing menu is drilled into the team of waiters daily.
Reservations are recommended but not essential.