A western restaurant, Joie de Vivre sits like an island in an otherwise Vietnamese neighbourhood. By Lien Hoang. Photos by Fred Wissink.

A challenge for Joie de Vivre will be to convince expats to get away from the comforts of Districts 1, 2 and 7 when they want western food. This new restaurant requires driving the length of Cach Mang Thang Tam Street through to District 3. But it helps to escape from the usual, once in a while. The wide, comfortable alley here offers the feel of very local Vietnamese living, with Joie de Vivre as an oasis of foreign cuisine.

It plays up the multicultural influence with pan-European decorations and even creepy but interesting Korean masks. German mugs, Dutch windmills, Russian dolls, and a small Eiffel Tower line the shelves above stacks of logs. But the odd panoply somehow doesn’t intrude on the simple décor, which emphasises neutral browns and checkerboard patterns. For the best dining experience, the patio upstairs is a refreshing spot, especially at night when the schoolyard opposite goes quiet and the string of lights come on.

Joie de Vivre brings a chef and management team from the Majestic hotel downtown. Perhaps their strangest choice was the presentation of the grilled lamb rack with pepper sauce (VND 298,000). It came on a pancake, which was definitely new to me and added nothing to the entree. The vegetables are fine, though it helps to have them with the sweet and smokey pepper concoction, which lives up to the restaurant’s goal of focusing on unique, strong sauces. None of this can go without the mashed potatoes, with just the right bumpy texture.

An even more unique sauce of lemon and capers comes with the baked seabass (not a bad deal at VND 185,000). The vegetables and string pasta were a bit plastic, but the creamy sauce makes up for it and contributes well to the firm fish.

Also offering strong flavours is the chicken mushroom cream soup (VND 75,000). It’s a basic idea, but I rarely see chicken in cream of mushroom, and this works. To a lesser extent, so does the Russian salad of potato, carrot, radish, and ham, topped with sliced, hardboiled egg (VND 80,000). Thankfully it’s light on the mayonnaise and surprises diners with its spicy additions.

The creme brulee (VND 70,000) is rich and as sweet as it should be, not to mention fun to crack into. The eatery also has homemade cakes and other desserts under glass for VND 45-70,000, which makes them easy to take home.

292/10 Cach Mang Thang Tam, D3
08 62 60 00 66
7am-2pm, 5pm-10pm