Keith Hancock samples seafood with a difference at Saigon Dzo. Photos by Jonny Edbrooke.
Nestled away in the small street that is Mai Thi Luu in District 1, Saigon Dzo is quite the hidden gem.
A quiet entrance with the open kitchen to the right leads into a 1960s style diner with walls bearing icons of that era’s Rock ’n Roll and Pop. The front of the restaurant is open air, though thankfully covered, as on the night we went, it simply poured down.
The whole place has a nice clean simple look about it creating a pleasant ambience. The menu is strongly biased towards seafood with steaks and salads making up the full compliment.
The owner, Harinda Jayakody, hails from Sri Lanka and together with his Vietnamese manager Johnny he has created something quite different from the majority of restaurants in town. For the purpose of this review I forwent the steaks in order to get a feel for what they specialise in, seafood. On busy nights they employ the use of a charcoal barbecue in front of the restaurant.
Salmon with Tom Yum Sauce VND150,000 per serving
This worked really well, I thought that the sauce may have overpowered the delicate fish, but no, perfect balance. The dish was well presented and was probably the best looking dish on offer. The fish was a generous portion and cooked beautifully and simply on the barbecue.
Escargot with Garlic and Butter Sauce VND 650,000 per kilo
A truly lovely delicate garlic sauce which merely brought out the taste of the snails. I really enjoyed this. These freshwater snails have a lighter colour and more subtle taste than their French cousins.
Baked King Prawns with Smoked Barbecue Sauce VND415,000 per kilo
Again the sauce was a real winner. Also the way the prawns were butterflied made them very easy to eat. I’m not a fan of the Eastern style of eating prawns, shell, head and everything. I prefer to eat the meat of the body, this dish was probably my favourite on taste.
Razor Clams with Tom Yum Sauce VND125,000 per serving
These were recommended to me in advance and they absolutely did not disappoint. The portion size was more than generous and well presented. The clams were perfect and the Tom Yum sauce again gave a really nice Asian twist to a global dish.
All in all this was a really good experience, it’s by no means fine dining but it is good food with an Asian/Western feel to it. The prices are well within most people’s budgets and the overall ambience makes for a good time.
There is no doubt a lot of thought has gone into the preparation of the menu and the presentation of the dishes. The menu is presented in English and Vietnamese and while the dishes are generally Western in their ideas, the journey is often treated in an Asian way. It’s a balance that works well and I’m sure on that will be represented in their clientele.