Monica Majors makes herself at home in District 3’s newest French eatery, La Maison Wine Bar & Restaurant. Photos by Vinh Dao.
There’s a breeze that kicks up in the courtyard of La Maison Wine Bar & Restaurant, and you’d never know that you were just a few steps from the bustle of Nam Ky Khoi Nghia. This is one of chef Sakal Phoeung’s newest projects; a more accessible version of sister restaurant Le Corto in both space and ambience. Nightly live music has kept me coming back to try more of their French classics while also enjoying the easy-to-drink selection of wines. If I’m stuck for a sumptuous snack I often hop over for their ‘Bubble Aperitif’ offer: a bottle of Cava or rosé Prosecco, and oysters for VND 700,000 nett, every day from 5pm to 6pm and Sundays 11am until 6pm. It was precisely in mid-slurp when Chef Phoeung decided to sit down and discuss why his French cuisine works so well at La Maison.
“The cuisine we make here isn’t complicated, and when I put together the menu I keep it simple and focus on the flavours so that the chefs can copy,” he says. The restaurant isn’t meant exclusively for the local community, but it does tend to attract them. “We want to give authentic French cuisine to the middle-class of both expats and locals,” he continues before bouncing back into the kitchen.
It’s obvious that his hand is all over the success of the restaurant; he hires and trains all of the kitchen staff, in addition to creating the menus. Every six months he changes about 40 percent of the menu to keep both the returning guests and the chefs intrigued. This month will see the addition of more grilled meats and Mediterranean dishes; perfect for the summer months. I did the hard lifting for all of you and sampled my way through much of the rich food.
Among my favourites are the grilled salmon, a hefty 150g at a reasonable VND250,000 which was grilled to such perfection that each section just flaked away from the rest. The grilled lamb rack was not only juicy, but was also a spectacle, as it was revealed on the table with an abundance of smoking thyme. Somehow I found space for the ubiquitous French dish: foie gras. La Maison’s generous slab of pan-fried foie gras with mango (VND230,000) is listed as a starter, but is so sumptuous and sweet that it could easily substitute as a savoury dessert. That is, if you can stay away from the After Eight Chocolate dessert (VND190,000).
My choice of seating is somewhat between the courtyard’s delightfully non-invasive and reasonably piped music (offered in both English and French every night from 7.30 to 9.30 pm), and the stylistic monochrome design of the two-storey interior.
Business lunches are also popular and offered between 11am and 2pm (from VND199,000). This homey environment is sure to be one of Saigon’s newest localised spots for expats looking to blend in while eating large.