Mexican food done right in District 3 at Khoi Thom. By Ruben Luong. Photos by Fred Wissink.

Good Mexican food in Saigon is hard to come by, but two years later at Khoi Thom, it’s muy excelente. 

That’s because the restaurant changed almost its entire menu 10 months ago, when it hired Mexican chef David Alejandro Palacios, 29, to include a full range of beloved Mexican staples, like tacos, enchiladas and burritos, which weren’t on the former menu.

From there, Khoi Thom transitioned from fusion-oriented food to contemporary Mexican. Guests can choose from main (VND 140,000), sandwich (VND 115,000) or taco (VND 110,000) lunch sets in the day, or from the larger menu, which ranges from VND 75,000-225,000 for full dishes like quesadillas, fajitas, salads and mains.

Palacio says obtaining authentic Mexican flavours in his food using Vietnamese ingredients can be a challenge, since some local ingredients are sweeter or have different textures. But the two mains he prepared for us didn’t show any difficulty.

The first, carnitas-style roast pork belly with mashed black bean and Mexican rice (VND 195,000), was warm and hearty. Palacios prepared the pork belly using a French style but with Mexican flavours, fusing his carnitas marinade with a combination of rich oregano, cumin, garlic and thyme.

His roasted chicken in adobo seasoning with roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables is a definite must-have at Khoi Thom (VND 190,000). An even layer of adobo seasoning, consisting of parmesan, rosemary, garlic and red chilli gave a perfect grainy texture to balance the tender chicken meat.

Afterwards, we finished off bowls of fresh tortillas, corn chips and chilli-seasoned sweet potato chips over pico de gallo, roasted tomato, green pepper and cilantro, and sour cream dips, which are all made in-house and come with every order.

Khoi Thom also understands the concept of a fiesta, offering all-you-can-drink margaritas Wednesday nights from 8-10.30pm for VND 290,000. Thursday is taco night, featuring VND 25,000 tacos, while happy hour is every day from 4-7pm with Tiger draught and local beer for VND 18,000, or 30 percent off all other drinks, except wine.

For alcohol-free diversions, parents are encouraged to bring their children over to the restaurant’s Kids Corner on the weekends, when kids can play with toys or create crafts. This month, guests also can look forward to a free and ongoing salsa night every Sunday.

29 Ngo Thoi Nhiem, D3
08 39 30 02 33
11am-late, seven days
Khoithom.com