A new location and a new menu make this restaurant with a cause worth revisiting. Review and photos by Brett Davis.
The venerable training restaurant KOTO (Know One, Teach One), opened the doors at its new digs in May this year. Now perched atop Khumo Plaza on the corner of Hai Ba Trung and Le Duan streets, its indoor and outdoor spaces make for a welcome retreat from the bustle below.
Head Chef Julien Perraudin has designed a menu that is international in scope, taking inspiration from cuisines around Asia and the world. It is, however, steadfastly not fusion food.
A great example is the tomato salad with cracked wheat, merguez sausage, dukkah and feta (VND 120,000), which has a strong Mediterranean influence, or the stir fried duck with Thai basil, peanuts and chili (VND 140,000) that could come straight from an island in the Andaman Sea.
For something a little meatier, the barbeque imported US ribs with pickles, chili oil, peanuts and east/west barbeque sauce (VND 295,000) is a standout. There is a good selection of seafood available, and the wild-caught sea bass with coconut and Chinese cabbage wrapped in a banana leaf (VND 210,000) is well worth a try.
The burger wars have been raging in Saigon of late, and the KOTO Burger (VND 170,000) with Asian remoulade and barbecue chili sauce can hold its own with any of them.
If you are coming along with a group and are organized ahead of time, there are a couple of slow-cooked options that need to be ordered 24 hours in advance. There is a crispy pork hock with tamarind (VND 7,500,000), and a one kilogram Australian spiced lamb shoulder (VND 850,000).
A new addition is KOTO’s banh mi bar, which operates from 8am to 3pm every day. Four different styles are available including the Jamaican jerk chicken (VND 60,000) or the banh mi Spain which features chorizo sausage and pickled peppers (VND 90,000).
The wide outdoor terrace at the Khumo Plaza venue is a great spot for an after-work drink, and the happy hour specials, available between 4pm and 7pm every day, are hard to refuse. Patrons can take advantage of a buy one, get one free deal on selected beers, cocktails and glasses of house wine. Given the cocktails go for only VND 105,000 at other times, it represents great value for money.
There are also some fantastic snacks available during happy hour to whet your appetite for dinner, or replace dinner for that matter. A personal favourite is the brava potatoes (VND 25,000) served with chili mayo and topped with preserved black beans and coriander, and the duck confit on a brioche bun with sweet and sour cabbage (VND 25,000). Set lunches and banquets for up to eight people are also available.