Keith Hancock dives into the a la carte menu at Saigon Social Space, with lip-smacking results. Photos by Romain Garrigue.

Saigon Social Space, which opened with much fanfare last month, is as good a restaurant as any I’ve sampled in Ho Chi Minh City over the past four and a half years.

General Manager Blair Mathieson, who oversees the vast 15,000 square-metre venue as well as its 17 chefs, has created an extraordinary menu of Asian and Western dishes.

For me, this is fine dining at a glorious location with exceptional value.

I believe Saigon Social Space is going to have a big impact of the culinary scene of the city. Here are my picks from the menu:

Jamon Serrano VND220,000  – This starter comes with an attractive and perfectly-balanced array of pickled anchovies, smokey Serrano ham, goats cheese and small cubes of watermelon.

Grilled Beef with Betel Leaf, 6 for VND180,000 – I was reliably informed by my associates that this was very good, although it is not to my personal taste. As with everything else on the menu it was beautifully presented.

Buratta VND270,000
I adored this, a super blend of mozzarella and cream served on mini tomatoes with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar dressing.

Pho VND110,000 – This classic Vietnamese dish pho is Westernised using the most amazing Angus beef. The clean-tasting pho flavours are heightened by the exceptional meat. At this price, this dish is a bargain and easily the best I’ve ever had, and I eat pho several times each week.

Charred Octopus VND380,000 – For lovers of surf and turf, Saigon Social Space offers a gorgeous mix of fatty pork belly and beautifully-seared octopus. The pork has that lovely mix of fat, meat and crispy crackling, while the octopus is quickly blackened leaving it succulent and very tasty. It comes with a delicious daikon-apple slaw and red pepper jam.

Twice Cooked Pigeon VND350,000 – Pigeon is not often seen on many menus but here the dish is very good indeed. The whole bird is presented in a very decorative way and tasted wonderful. I think this is a much underrated bird and, although does not present a huge meal, what meat there is, especially when cooked as well as this, is very appealing.

Slow Cooked Beef Short Rib VND 450,000 – Probably the highlight of my tasting meal was the short rib. A stunning piece of 21-day dry cured meat, slow-cooked for four hours and served with a delightfully fresh papaya salad. This meat was simply falling off the bone, I didn’t even need a knife.

Smashed Pavlova VND190,000 – A glorious passion fruit pavlova, served with ginger custard and cream. The New Zealand favourite was a perfect combination of crispy and gooey meringue with fabulous fruit.

Coconut Ice Cream Sundae VND160,000 – This was a modern Western take on a Thai favourite: mango with sticky rice. Here they use black rice, the sweetest of fresh mangoes, peanut candy and a delicious coconut ice cream.

It was pure heaven.   

53 Quach Giai, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: 0938 890 870
11am-10pm Monday-Friday, 10am – 10pm weekends
www.saigonsocialspace.com
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