Simon Stanley and the AsiaLIFE team spend a lazy Sunday afternoon at one of Saigon’s best seafood buffets, Nineteen at Caravelle Saigon. Photos by Vinh Dao.
The AsiaLIFE team have come for a rare family get-together and office assistant Chi is hitting the dessert counter first. As any regular Sunday bruncher knows, all rules are off when it comes to a buffet. Photo editor Vinh soon has three drinks lined up in front of him and no one so much as bats an eyelid. Nineteen’s staff are being super attentive with the unlimited beverages, and as soon as we’ve toasted and wet our palettes with the Veuve Clicquot Champagne, all glasses are promptly refilled.
Beers and soft drinks are also available, and craft-cocktails can be made to order or plucked from the wait staff’s trays as they float around the room. While there are bigger buffets in town, choice isn’t everything. Faced with too many decisions to make, with what can sometimes seem like an endless procession of cuisines to choose from, the opportunity cost can often leave me feeling either disappointed, or in a food-induced coma if I attempt to try a little of everything. Caravelle’s buffet, whether you go for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, is still large enough to feel decadent, yet small enough for its staff to keep a close eye on the quality of each and every element. It also means you can try everything without fear of hospitalisation.
“We strive for the best quality available,” says Juan Costa Ribas, Caravelle’s Executive Assistant Manager in charge of Food and Beverage. “We work with local suppliers for seasonal products, as well as for premium imported goods.” I decide to play it straight and hit up the sushi bar first. Fresh, crisp, delicious. The hot carvery beckons next and I’m treated to some of the finest lamb (with fresh mint sauce) I’ve had in years. Potatoes, vegetables and all the trimmings make for a fine Sunday lunch. A break for a cocktail preludes the barbecue section, filled with steaks, chicken and pork, all in a variety of styles and all cooked to order.
Another highlight, and Nineteen’s speciality, is the seafood. The selection runs from salmon steaks and fresh lobster, to octopus, prawns and fine oysters. Topped with your choice of flavourings or sauce, the ‘fruits de la mer’ are a clear favourite with their guests. “We never use frozen seafood,” says Ribas. “All comes fresh or alive. We have selected suppliers who guarantee us the quality of food they are delivering daily, even on Sundays.” Before grazing the colourful selection of homemade desserts, chocolates, sweets, fruits and the chocolate fountain, I take the rare opportunity to indulge in the vast array of European cheeses, jams, chutneys and cured meats. On top of fresh crusty bread with a glass of house red, the chorizo and prosciutto is heavenly… and it’s all endless. Well, until 3pm of course. Nineteen’s Sunday Brunch Buffet with unlimited flow Champagne, craft cocktails and selected house wines and beer is priced at VND1,490,000++. Bookings of five persons or more can enjoy 20 percent discount until the end of October 2016. From 3 to 15 October, Nineteen is running a gastronomic Japanese celebration, with special dinner menus also planned for Canada and America’s thanksgiving days, Christmas, and its famous New Year’s Eve celebration.