From the owners of Prem Bistro comes another healthy-yet-delicious dining experience, for vegetarians, vegans, and even carnivores like Simon Stanley. Photos by Vinh Dao.
As a lifelong meat-eater, vegetarian food, let alone veganism, was never on my radar until I made the move from the UK to Vietnam. Avoiding meat sounded like a flavourless journey into persistent hunger. How wrong I was. Having dabbled in veganism recently for health reasons, I was immediately struck not only by how much better I felt, how much more energised and alert, but also how good Saigon’s vegetarian and vegan restaurants are.
One such establishment, Prem, the District 3 vegetarian/vegan enclave, is now joined by Pi, opened in June of this year by the same owners. Offering a new concept and a new and spacious first-floor restaurant across the street from the War Remnants Museum, its semi-hidden location makes for a welcome retreat from the city. Atop a hidden staircase (look for the Pasteur Street Brewery sign), find cosy booths, large communal tables, a breezy outdoor terrace strung with golden lights, and a warm and friendly vibe.
“I think a lot of our customers are non-vegetarian, but they just want something new, something different,” says Pi’s co-owner Thanh Bui. “I think it’s growing. Not in the way that more people are becoming vegetarian, but that people are becoming more open-minded to it.”
Pi dedicates itself to Vietnamese and Asian cuisine, with everything on the menu suitable for vegetarians, and what looks to be around 95 percent vegan-friendly too.
For starters, we try the fresh avocado with honey lemongrass sauce (VND105,000). It’s an explosion of colour and freshness, perfectly ripe, with a sweetness that makes it almost as addictive as a bag of naughty naughty candy.
The pumpkin curry (VND100,000) takes its influences from India. Loaded with cubes of pumpkin within a rich flavoursome sauce, plus black beans, chickpeas, tofu and capsicum, it’s hearty, nourishing and a great demonstration of the quality of ingredients being used here, all of which come from safe and reputable sources.
The green mango salad (VND80,000) arrives next, heaped with a rainbow of carrots, red cabbage, mint leaves, lime leaves and mushroom tempura. The flavours are big and bold, the dressing hitting all the right notes, and the mango just on that perfect razor-edge between sweet and sharp.
Then it’s Pi’s fried tofu with choo chee sauce (VND95,000), a vegan red curry masterpiece that even stubborn carnivores would be pushed to fault. Finally we try the ‘Bowl of Pi’ (VND150,000) a shareable colour wheel salad of vegetables and chickpeas that’s far too pretty to eat, but eat you must.
Drinks are just as healthy, rolling from smoothies and cold-pressed juices (from VND55,000), to nourishing blends of fruits, vegetables, nuts and coconut water (all VND75,000). For just a hint of sin, alcohol is also available – remember the Pasteur Street sign downstairs? The perfect balance.
1st Floor, 19 Vo Van Tan, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: 09 1641 4133
10am – 3pm, 5pm – 9.30pm, 7 days